According to Wells Fargo Securities (as picked up by Fierce Wireless), more than 40 percent of Sprint’s total network traffic is being carried on its 2.5 GigaHertz airwaves, with the fourth biggest wireless carrier in the United States not showing any signs of significant congestion lately. The mobile service provider had taken some flak over the last few months for lowering its spending on network infrastructure. Sprint had been trying to densify its network by rolling out small cells from the vendor Mobilitie. The company dropped its capital expenditure guidance for the rest of 2016 to $3 billion, which is lower than the projected $4.5 billion. Moreover, there were reports that the deployment of small cells has been hampered because of difficulties in acquiring the necessary permits from local authorities.
There is some talk that in about half a dozen wireless markets in the US, roll outs of small cells have been put on hold for all wireless carriers, while vendors, mobile service providers and local authorities are still trying to figure out the standard policies and practices with regards to the installation and maintenance of antennas the size of briefcases on utility poles and other local rights of way.
Wells Fargo is often critical of Sprint, but upon visiting the wireless carrier’s headquarters last week, it noted that despite some minor hitches, the deployment of small cell transmitters has been coming along fine, and maybe even progressing ahead of schedule. Wells Fargo reported that in terms of tonnage per subscriber, Sprint carriers more than any other wireless carrier in the US market, but interestingly, the company is using only less than 25 percent of its 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum holdings. And Sprint is doing all of that without experiencing any significant congestion.
Before April of this year, most of Sprint’s network traffic had been carried over its PCS airwaves. However, Sprint is making use of time division duplex (TDD) instead of frequency division duplex (FDD), which allows the wireless carrier to make adjustments on uplinks and downlinks as needed, depending on the current usage. Sprint appears to be the only wireless carrier in the uS that has TDD airwaves, which could prove to be an advantage as everything transitions into the era of 5G. Right now, among the Big Four carriers in America, Sprint is the only one that can claim it has small cell spectrum. It increasingly appears that network spectrum is now the least of Sprint’s concerns, and in order to be competitive, the carrier must now focus its attention on areas such as sales and distribution.
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