August 1, 2014 — While saying that Sprint’s work building out its network is not done, CTO John Saw told the carrier’s fiscal year first quarter earnings call that the focus is being shifted away from building out Network Vision to evolving its multi-band platform.
“Our focus on quality and optimization also applies to our capital spending as we reevaluate where our resources are focused while we wind down the Network Vision build. We are also leveraging SoftBank and our vendors to collaborate on ways to deploy the network on a more capital-efficient basis,” Saw said.
“When moving more traffic to our expanded LTE footprint, we are also able to spend less on 3G capacity than we had planned,” he added.
Capital expenditures were more than $1.4 billion in the quarter, up $359 million, because of the 2.5 GHz build, but year-over-year capex was down $481 million, because of reductions in Network Vision spending, according to Joe Euteneuer, chief financial officer.
“This year’s spending on network modernization has been lower as spend for construction has wound down as we approached our originally planned deployment targets. Partially offsetting this decrease is higher spending on Sprint Spark deployments,” Euteneuer said. “Our capital spend is expected to increase in the second half of the year as we continue to invest in LTE capacity by expanding LTE on 800 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum to enhance the customer experience.”
During the last three months, Sprint substantially completed the replacement of its 3G voice system and began offering high-definition voice nationwide, which Saw called the “icing on the cake, because of its exceptional clarity.” LTE coverage grew to 254 million people, as well.
Plans include enhancing voice coverage by adding more 800-MHz frequencies to the network footprint and strengthening LTE system coverage, speed and capacity in the 800-MHz and 2.5-GHz bands, with a renewed focus on network quality and optimization.
“We will relentlessly focus on network quality and optimization to ensure an optimal user experience,” Saw said. “In the last few months, we have committed more resources in the field where our engineers are working on individual cell site by cell site to ensure they are all working at optimum levels.”
The voice network has been turned up on 800-MHz frequencies in one-third of the Sprint footprint, and it is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The improvement will have an immediate effect as 60 percent of Sprint’s post-paid subscribers are on 800-MHz-enabled handsets.
Expanding the LTE footprint to 254 million people gives a good foundation to build on, Saw said, as the carrier expands Sprint Spark to cover 100 million people with LTE in the 2.5-GHz band by the end of the year, by which time Sprint expects to have capabilities for carrier aggregation in the 2.5-GHz band, giving added capacity and increased data speeds.
“We are excited to have begun the installation of eight transmit, receive (8T8R) radios, which should significantly improve the coverage and speeds of our 2.5-gigahertz TDD LTE service,” Saw said.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link. He occasionally contributes to AGL magazine, as well.