Sprint Nextel lists first 4 of 10 LTE markets, clarifies spectrum plans


Sprint Nextel’s LTE plans received some clarity as CEO Dan Hesse announced the first four markets to receive the carrier’s new network offering scheduled to launch later this year, with plans for 10 markets in its initial launch. Hesse, speaking at the Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference, said that Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio would lead the carrier’s LTE network rollout.

The carrier originally announced its LTE plans last October, noting it planned to begin deploying the technology using the 10 megahertz of G-Band, 1.9 GHz spectrum it controls and updating about 22,000 cell sites. The initial deployment will rely on a somewhat limited 5 megahertz by 5 megahertz channel plan (5×5) that is roughly half the 10×10 spectrum plan Verizon Wireless is using for its LTE service operating in the 700 MHz band.

Hesse further clarified Sprint Nextel’s spectrum plans noting that the carrier wanted to move to a 10 x 10 megahertz spectrum channel by 2014 using some of its 14 megahertz of contiguous spectrum it controls in the 800 MHz spectrum holdings it hopes to free up with the scrapping of its iDEN network. The carrier is also planning to use some of that spectrum for its CDMA2000 1x-Advanced service that it expects to provide better coverage and capacity for its CDMA operations.

The carrier said it expected to cover about 176 million potential customers with a mix of LTE and WiMAX services by the end of this year and 250 million pops covered by the end of 2013. The 2012 estimates include 123 million pops covered with LTE and 120 million covered with WiMAX from its partnership with Clearwire, with approximately 67 million pops covered by both technologies.

Unlike its current “4G” branded service that runs on Clearwire’s WiMAX network, the LTE service will initially be an all-Sprint Nextel effort. A recent investment into subsidiary Clearwire will eventually lead to Sprint Nextel tapping into Clearwire’s TDD-LTE plans. Hesse noted that with the Clearwire spectrum and network the carrier could extend its spectrum resources from about 2014 to at least 2016.

Sprint Nextel was initially relying on a network hosting agreement with LightSquared to bolster its LTE plans, a deal that now appears in limbo as LightSquared continues to battle for use of its 1.6 GHz spectrum holdings.

In addition to the LTE plans, Sprint Nextel is banking on its Network Vision improvements to bolster its current 3G coverage. Those improvements are expected to come from more efficient network infrastructure that will allow for greater coverage and capacity from each cell site. The carrier noted that the first completed deployment of its new base stations was last month in Branchburg, N.J.

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”