Seth Goodwin Sprint 4G Rollout Updates Monday, April 30, 2018 - 5:00 PM PDT
After three previous attempts during the past four years, something many thought may never happen actually did. On Sunday April 29, T-Mobile announced they were effectively acquiring Sprint in an all stock deal, combining the third and fourth largest carriers in the U.S. wireless market. Pending regulatory approval, the merger is targeted for closing in the first half of 2019.
The deal using an exchange ratio of 0.10256 Sprint shares for each T-Mobile share valued Sprint at approximately $26.5 billion (plus the assumption of Sprint’s $30+ billion in debt) or $6.62 per share using T-Mobile’s Friday closing price of $64.52. The combined company “New T-Mobile” will be owned 41.7% by Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent company. 27.4% of the company will be owned by Sprint's parent company SoftBank, with the remaining 30.9% owned by the general public and institutional investors.
According to terms of the deal announced by both companies in a joint press release, the combined T-Mobile will retain two headquarters in Bellevue, Washington and Overland Park, Kansas. Current T-Mobile CEO John Legere will retain that role at the new company. T-Mobile’s Mike Sievert will serve as President and COO. No Sprint executives were announced to the management team at this time. Deutsche Telekom's Timotheus Höttges will serve as chairman of the company's board of directors, and DT will have 9 seats on the board compared to SoftBank's 4. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, and SoftBank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son will occupy two of SoftBank’s seats.
As opposed to the famous T-Mobile/AT&T attempted tie up several years ago, this deal does not include a breakup fee should the merger fail to pass regulatory approval. Rather, Sprint has independently signed a roaming agreement with T-Mobile for four years that will continue regardless of the outcome of the merger. On the analyst call for the merger announcement Marcelo Claure said this would take effect immediately. As of the time this article was published, specific details pertaining to the roaming agreement and any actual known roaming connections have yet to materialize.
Sprint and T-Mobile will continue operating separately until the conclusion of the merger, something that in and of itself raises multiple questions about this coming year. Hopefully we'll gain some more insights with Sprint's upcoming FY 2017/4th quarter earnings call. Assuming approval, the companies announced that they intend on spending up to $40 billion in the first three years on capital expenditures and consolidating operations into a single entity. According to the press release, this represents almost 50% more than what Sprint and T-Mobile combined had spent over the past three years.
At the time of closing, the companies estimate that Sprint and T-Mobile will have approximately 110,000 macro cell towers. Of these, around 35,000 will be decommissioned due to co-location or other redundancies. 10,000 new sites will be added leaving New T-Mobile with approximately 85,000 macro sites. Within the first three years of a combined company it is also estimated that the carrier will have over 50,000 small cells independent of magic boxes. The two carriers currently have around 10,000 combined.
The stated plan is to “use T-Mobile as the anchor network” and use selected Sprint “keep” sites to add coverage and density. At a minimum, Sprint’s BRS/EBS 2.5 GHz spectrum will be added to T-Mobile’s sites and T-Mobile’s “full spectrum portfolio” will be deployed on Sprint’s “keep” sites. At face value, this would point toward mainly decommissioning Sprint sites as part of the 35,000-macro site reduction. In actuality we'll see what they do. For example all things equal, if two sites are co-located the greater synergies are in eliminating the tower rack with less favorable lease terms or worse rack location.
VoLTE and Two-dot-Five
The conference call noted while the goal is to migrate Sprint's CDMA customers to VoLTE as soon as possible, with 20 million Sprint customers having T-Mobile compatible handsets on day one. The intention is to have the total migration to T-Mobile completed over a three-year period without “degrading experience on Sprint’s network.” This suggests at a minimum keeping Sprint’s 1x800 voice service active during the transition as well as a deliberate coordinated process for overall decommissioning of macro sites.
The other thing to watch going forward in this area is that T-Mobile makes no mention in their investor presentation toward utilizing anything other than Sprint’s 2.5 spectrum on their sites. A Sprint T-Mobile merger would create a spectrum behemoth with holdings ranging from T-Mobile’s low band 600 MHz for building penetration and rural coverage all the way through Sprint’s 2.5 GHz for capacity and speed. On Sunday, executives announced they have no intention of divesting any spectrum. However, questions remain on issues like what does a company that already possesses 600 MHz and 700 MHz LTE spectrum do with 800 MHz? How do T-Mobile and Sprint independently spend CapEx this year without diminishing merger synergies? We at S4GRU plan on potentially analyzing a combined company’s significant aggregate spectrum situation in a separate article at a later date.
According to the investor information provided, the combined company is estimated to have run rate cost synergies in excess of $6 billion annually or on a net present value basis in excess of $43 billion. $26 billion NPV or $4 billion annually of these annual savings would be derived from network consolidation and CapEx synergies. Additional savings could come from consolidation of operations including store closing and eliminating corporate redundancies. From Sprint’s perspective these savings would be significant. The carrier has not turned a profit in the past 10 years. However, with these savings (even a portion of these savings) the carrier hypothetically would have been profitable all 10 years.
This merger is not a done deal by any means. It faces regulatory scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under the administration of former President Barack Obama, AT&T and T-Mobile attempted to merge only to be shot down by the government. Sprint and T-Mobile were reportedly told not to even try four years ago.
The prior administration's thinking had constantly been that by allowing any combination of the big 4 U.S. wireless carriers to merge into three, consolidation would negatively impact the average consumer due to lower competition in the market. On the conference call Marcelo Claure noted that regulatory approval is “the elephant in the room.” Claure and Legere are expected to embark on a tour of Washington D.C. to try and gain favor for the merger later this week.
Much has changed in Washington since Sprint and T-Mobile’s last attempt at a tie-up, but whether or not a merger is anywhere close to a guarantee to pass remains in limbo. President Donald Trump has positioned himself as a pro-business President, meeting with Masa Son shortly after his election. And while Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai has made comments signaling he may be more open to market consolidation than his predecessors; President Trump’s DOJ is simultaneously attempting to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. Claure and Legere noted that they had talked to Pai, but had yet to talk to anyone at the DOJ prior to announcing the merger.
With nothing guaranteed, selling this merger to the government and the public is going to be the key factor on whether or not it ultimately gets approved. Sprint and T-Mobile executives wasted no time in starting on Sunday launching the pro merger site allfor5g.com. Legere and Claure continued touting the merger in a series of interviews and television appearances Sunday night and Monday morning. Based on early results, the argument for the merger is fairly crafted towards its intended audience.
The crux of T-Mobile and Sprint’s contention is that 5G is the future, and the future is costly. Both companies maintain a 3rd stronger carrier is better than 4 carriers in a market, two of which are at a capital disadvantage. Claure noted that, “It’s a very simple rule of business---both companies need each other.” Sprint has 2.5 GHz spectrum that will be optimal for 5G but lacks the financial resources to deploy its own. A new T-Mobile benefits from the 2.5 GHz spectrum, a larger combined customer base, financial synergies, and greater economies of scale to effectively deploy 5G. Legere noted their goal to eventually be able to provide 450 Mbit/s speeds consistently everywhere.
The 5G argument is significant for a couple of reasons. The first is the current administration has made 5G a quasi-national security issue. The merger of Qualcomm and Broadcom was blocked partially on the grounds of China taking the lead in 5G, and it was widely reported at one point that the Trump administration was considering nationalizing 5G out of security concerns with China. The goal here is that if you let New T-Mobile happen they contend that they will be in a position to deliver 5G rapidly, creating a sense of urgency that a deal needs to be approved sooner than later. If you don’t let them combine they aren’t in the same position to make that happen. They also contended that 5G would allow for the innovators of the future, a not so thinly veiled overall economic development message.
The other major 5G argument centers on rural expansion. For a long-time wireless rural cell service and rural broadband have been an important political and economic development issue. Historically rural service has lagged as the infrastructure cost to deliver service far exceeds any revenue operators can hope to recoup. Legere and Claure have immediately been pushing the notion that a merger would allow the combined carrier to bring rural broadband across the nation (as well as creating jobs in rural areas during the network deployment).
Lastly, their final argument centers around job creation. Typically, one of the reasons companies merge is that you can save money by eliminating duplicate positions within two separate organizations. Legere on Sunday claimed that this merger would create “thousands of American jobs” with 200,000 people working either directly for or on behalf of a combined entity. This likely faces more regulatory scrutiny than some of the other pro-merger arguments, as again typically mergers result in overall contraction. Furthermore, Sprint on its own announced several hundred layoffs within the past few months.
In the near term, the FCC at some point soon is going to impose a quiet period forbidding anyone that is participating in this fall’s spectrum auction (an auction Sprint and T-Mobile are seeking a waiver for to jointly coordinate bidding strategies) from discussing mergers. Additionally, the longer the wait is, it is likely some of the merger synergies would be eliminated. Sprint towers that are redundant to T-Mobile are not to Sprint itself. If Sprint's executive team was to be believed, Sprint was poised to spend $5 to 6 billion on Capex each of the next three years. Undoubtedly some of that, a potentially significant portion, would've been on towers T-Mobile has no interest in retaining. Slightly longer term, if there was ever a presidential administration to try this under it is this one. Much like this merger's outcome President Trump's re-election is far from a certainty. If a Democratic administration were to come back to Washington D.C. odds of any merger approval diminish significantly.
Longer term yet, Sprint hasn’t turned a profit in 10 years. Marcelo Claure has done a more than admirable job at steering the ship during his four-year tenure: cutting costs, coming up with creative cost-effective network deployment strategies, etc. However, at some point access to traditional borrowing markets may have been cutoff due to Sprint's inability to generate a profit or even consistent free cash flows. It didn’t appear imminent given their two-time borrowing this year, but the company has over $27 billion in debt due over the next 6 years. It is pretty easy to envision a scenario where bond investors said times up. Beyond that, the simple burden of debt may have become so overwhelming that even if it didn't threaten the going concern of the company, it negatively impacted capital expenditures, something we've seen recently.
Long-term is actually the story of the past 5+ years. Sprint has incredible spectrum assets, but it needed someone more financially able and willing to deploy them. SoftBank through either inability to act due to debt covenants with Japanese banks lending it money or through deliberate choice—in hindsight was never the savior it seemed. On paper, this merger should seemingly create a financially healthy company that finally is able to leverage Sprint's vast spectrum assets. However, as in the past, time will tell...
Source: 5gforall- https://allfor5g.com/
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates Saturday, April 7, 2018 - 6:54 PM PDT
A year ago Sprint and Open Mobile announced the beginnings of a joint venture whereby they would combine their network assets and operations together to create a better more competitive alternative on the island. In late 2017, the deal was consummated which gave Sprint access to Open Mobile's spectrum holdings in the PCS 1900 range and, more importantly, the 750 MHz Band 13 block.
This LTE Band 13 is almost exclusively used by Verizon Wireless as the basis for their LTE network. In comparison to Sprints SMR 800 MHz holdings it is 20 MHz in width meaning that Sprint is able to utilize a 10x10 MHz lowband LTE carrier whereas Sprints Band 26 800 MHz is limited to 5x5, 3x3, or even non existence as in Puerto Rico due to spectrum hoarders and other issues pertaining to the IBEZ. With this spectrum, Sprint is now able and has begun the deployment of a triband 750 / 1900 / 2500 network in Puerto Rico!
See the following screenshots from S4GRU PR / VI market thread users!
Note: UARFCN 5230 is 751 / 782 MHz center frequency. LTE Band 13 runs 777 - 787 / 746 - 756 which means it's smack dab in the center perfect for a 10x10 MHz FDD LTE carrier.
Thanks to imatute and smooth25 for the finds!
Dave Yeager Sprint 4G Rollout Updates Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 6:20 PM PDT
Exciting times for those of us who track Sprint Macro sites and signals. Sprint has accomplished a lot during the last few years in many places. Even during a period of reduced capital expenditures. Progress has been made by increasing bandwidth and adding carriers to LTE 1900 MHz, adding LTE 2.5 GHz macro and small cell sites, adding 3x3 LTE 800 MHz to many existing sites near the border, and working to eliminate 3G Only Ground Mounted Radio sites by adding LTE in many places*. Some of these improvements have been offset by ever increasing data demands that have doubled every 18 months. For maximum gain, a new plan was needed...Next-Gen.
Since late Fall 2017 Columbus S4GRU members have been tracking new permits in Ohio trying to figure out Sprint’s Next-Gen plans in detail. These permits soon made it obvious that multiple site configurations are involved. In late February / early March three Next-Gen sites were found in the Columbus Market. To ensure that these were not just isolated test sites, two identical Next-Gen sites were confirmed in the Cincinnati Market about a week ago. These are new antennas and are a different scenario than described in the prior S4GRU Wall Article on 16 port Triband Antennas.
Note that these new antennas (center) are about the same size as the 1900/800 MHz dual band antennas, except thicker and cover 2.5 GHz / 800 MHz. There are 10 ports on the bottom, excluding the 4 AISG ports, for 8T8R 2.5 GHz and 2T2R 800 MHz (plus 2T2R 800 MHz from Network Vision antenna/RRH). The site diagrams from Connecticut list them as Commscope DT465B-2XR-V2, which matches our photos. These new antennas are combined with a 2.5 GHz 8T8R RRH and another 800MHz RRH (a few permits list just one 4 port 800 MHz RRH) and always been found with existing hexport dual band 800/1900 MHz equipment.
Sprint’s desire to add 2.5 GHz to all sites is well publicized. But why two 800 MHz RRHs? To allow 4x4 MIMO for 800 MHz LTE. While only some tablets will fully benefit from 4x4 MIMO given the antenna size requirements, all devices will benefit from the significant signal propagation and stability improvements over 2xT/R diversity. At the cell edge this is especially true. This will be a major improvement for technologies such as VoLTE where weak signals can wreak havoc on voice quality and even usability.
Four Sprint scenarios were noted in some of the Connecticut information. Besides the two scenarios covered in this and the prior wall article, there is a ground mounted radio scenario, which is dated February 28, 2018 -- well past the changeover to Next-Gen antennas seen in the late Fall 2017 permits. Only the Triband decaport (10 port Antenna) is visible in the tower with diplexers and RRHs near the ground providing only 2T2R for 800MHz, 2T4R for the 1900MHz and 4T4R for the 2.5GHz, as shown below:
Below is the current status of our 2017+ permits for the Columbus market to give you an idea of where these antenna scenarios will be used more often. Note that while there is extensive permit information for the Columbus market, not all jurisdictions put permit information online plus accuracy and detail varies.
There is at least one Sprint Next-Gen Scenario remaining. Keep watching your local sites, especially if you see improved Band 26 LTE 800 or new Band 41 LTE 2500 signal or GCIs. Report anything new to a S4GRU forum. Include pictures and screen shots. Others will guide you to help figure out what you have found.
*For details for my market for 2017: http://s4gru.com/forums/topic/1904-network-visionlte-columbus-market/?page=219&tab=comments#comment-526696 Other spreadsheet markets in this region have similar stories to tell.
** Wiring Diagram source: http://www.ct.gov/csc/lib/csc/ems/east_windsor/southmainst/sprint/em-sprint-047-180126_filing_southmainst_eastwindsor.pdf page 61 of 66
*** Ground mounted Radio Scenario: http://www.ct.gov/csc/lib/csc/ems/stratford/hawleylane/sprint/em-sprint-138-180302_filing_hawleylane.pdf page 7 of 107
Many thanks to lilotimz and kineticman for their assistance with this article.
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates January 26, 2018 - 5:30 AM PST
[Edited: 1/28/18 to include additional information on Samsung 4 port 800 MHz radio]
[Edited: 2/2/18 for photograph addition of an Ericsson setup]
The Triband Hexadecaport. The newest development of Sprint's recent network expenditures.
This is a new triband antenna configuration now being deployed by Sprint that is able to do 4T4R MIMO on both 800 MHz and 1900 MHz in addition to 8T8R MIMO over 2.5 GHz. All in one single antenna.
Previously, Sprint typically utilized two different antennas with one from Network Vision days being a hexport dual band unit that supports 800 MHz and 1900 MHz. While 2.5 GHz was an additional antenna and radio unit added on later. Some sites utilized (and may continue to utilize) another triband antenna model. This older generation triband antenna is a decaport (10 port) triband unit that support 4T4R on both 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz with 2T2R on 800 MHz. This meant that an 8T8R radio would have its capabilities decreased as a result of going from 8T8R to 4T4R.
With the development and deployment of this new 16 port triband antenna, Sprint is now poised to offer 800 MHz 4 antenna transmit and receive diversity alongside 1900 MHz, while 2.5 GHz is able to fully utilize the capability of an 8T8R radio.
This means that the full capability of Sprint's 800 MHz, 1900 MHz, and LTE Plus (2.5 GHz) network can be utilized from a single triband antenna panel. Removing the limitations of the previous go-to triband antenna model. Because of these limitations, Sprint did not deploy the previous triband antenna panel in a wide scale. Now they are likely to deploy these more commonly. In fact, we are already seeing this occur in Washington State, Pittsburgh, and other places en masse.
Above: Samsung 4T4R 800 MHz setup via two 800 MHz RRH-C2, 4T4R 1900 MHz RRH-P4 , & 8T8R 2.5 GHz RRH-V3
Photograph Source: Josh (ingenium)
Currently, this type of setup has been found in Samsung vendor regions with two individual 2T2R 800 MHz RRUs to achieve 4T4R MIMO. Samsung and Sprint has a new 4 port 4T4R 800 MHz RRU that will be able to do the job of two existing 2T2R 800 MHz RRUs that will be deployed alongside this new type of antenna. This new Samsung 4 port low frequency radio is also available in Band 13 750 MHz for deployment in the Puerto Rico market due to the Sprint Open Mobile deal.
Photograph Source: Chris92 Ericsson Setup
This type of setup is yet to be seen in Ericsson or Nokia - Alcatel-Lucent territory. If you discover these in other vendor regions, be sure to post about it!
****If you're in Ericsson or Nokia / former Alcatel-lucent territory then replace the Samsung radios with the relevant Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent CDMA / LTE and Ericsson radios depending on region.***
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates January 12, 2018 - 5:30 PM PST
"New year, new me. Am I right?"
~ signed Samsung
Samsung has decided that the beginning of the new year is a great time to change. Samsung has decided its newest flagship Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus devices must meet with the FCC OET for certification far earlier than usual. With ever watchful and prying eyes, S4GRU staff discovered the twin filings for two devices with FCC IDs of A3LSMG960U and A3LSMG965U which follows the previous Samsung numeration of the Galaxy S8 / 8+ (950u/955u) and Galaxy S7 (930u/935u) respectively. In addition, previous leaks for purported international Galaxy S9 variant have captured the ID of 960F and 965F respectively.
To keep this short and simple, the Galaxy S9, to date, is the most technologically powerful device we've seen at least for Sprint and possibly other entities and the following technical specifications should demonstrate why.
CDMA BC: 0 / 1 / 10 GSM: 850 / 1900 WCDMA Bands: 2, 4 , 5 LTE Band: 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 17, 25 , 26 , 29, 30, 38, 41, 66, 71
Downlink Carrier Aggregation (DL CA) 5xB41 (up to 5 B41 carriers aggregated) B25+41CA (up to 2 B41 carriers - 3 total carriers aggregated ) B26+41CA (up to 2 B41 carriers - 3 total carriers aggregated ) B25+26CA (up to 2 B25 carriers - 3 total carriers aggregated )
Uplink Carrier Aggregation (UL CA) 2xB41
This phone supports up to 100 MHz of LTE spectrum being aggregated together from 5 individual Band 41 carriers!
To add to that, it also supports FDD and TDD LTE carrier aggregation by utilizing Band 25 1900 MHz or Band 26 800 MHz as the primary component carrier which would contribute to downlink and uplink while Band 41 is aggregated to it would be downlink only secondary component carriers. Remember the saying of having B25 or B26 uplink with Band 41 downlink, anybody?
Plus there is expansion of FDD carrier aggregation to that of between Band 25 and Band 26. This will help a ton in areas where Band 41 and its oodles of capacity does not reach. As the recent CDMA refarming nationwide on PCS spectrum has allowed Sprint to fire up an additional Band 25 carrier, this means in many Sprint markets there currently exists two Band 25 carriers in addition to a Band 26 carrier. This additional carrier is not forgotten and can now be used alongside the other Band 25 and Band 26 carrier for carrier aggregation.
Last but not least, this phone is "Gigabit Class" by having up to 12 spacial streams means that 4x4 MIMO can be used for 3 separate B41 carriers when aggregated together instead of 2 in the previous generation which supports only 10 spacial streams. Though it was a moot point as the entire generation of Samsung flagships from this past year did not support 4x4 MIMO on Band 41, until now!
A phone this size should not be able to pack so many technologies...but yet it does! A splendid phone and surely a must have for the S4GRU and other tech adept users!
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates December 11, 2017 - 9:30 PM PST
Recently, individuals who ordered Magic Boxes noticed a change in the product code of the unit to AU544 from AU545. It is now confirmed that the product code change is due to the release of the 3rd generation Magic Box. They are now being shipped!
The new revision is in essence a GEN2 optimized with a high quality LCD touchscreen display like that of the 1st Generation AU540. In addition, an external battery pack with an adapter to hook onto the Magic Box is now provided. It can be lugged around for testing purposes instead of internal batteries. In addition, the touch power on button of the GEN2 has been removed with power on sequence done by plugging in power to the unit via a battery pack with an adapter or via the AC power brick.
Performance wise, the GEN 3 is identical to the GEN 2 in that they still utilize the Airspan Airunity 545 small cell eNB and a Ninja LTE Relay module. The product designation change from 545 to 544 is primarily due to a change in the WiFi module to a different Qualcomm WiFi module. But for what matters to Sprint users, the LTE B41 performance impact as noted from GEN 1 and subsequently the GEN 2 are identical. GEN 2 users will not be left behind in performance wise. Previous generation device owners will not be missing out on much! For those that are getting the Magic Box for the first time, welcome to the party!
Here's pictures of the GEN 3 (AU544MBGN2) courtesy of @bucdenny
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates September 28, 2017 - 2:30 PM PDT
[Edit: 4/6/18: Reflects Airave 3 discontinuation]
It has been 6 months since I first learned of and received access to what is now called the GEN1 Magic Box. I wrote up my thoughts about it a few months back. Sprint has now evolved to a GEN 2 Magic Box model. These units are being distributed to customers who preordered after Sprint's announcements. I've now acquired a GEN2 Magic Box myself.
Upon opening the package, the most immediate and noticeable difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Magic Box is the absence of an external portable battery. This was useful to lug the Magic Box around and test different locations in order to select the best spot for unit placement.
On the surface this may appear to be a way to decrease unit costs. This may be true, but the Gen 2 model contains two CR18650 rechargeable lithium batteries integrated inside of the package for the same purpose. No more using a dongle and a hefty battery pack that could be easily lost!
[2nd Generation Magic Box white colored on left, 1st Generation Magic Box black colored on right[
Along with the new internal guts, the external aesthetics and materials were also modified. The Gen 1 model had a super bright LCD display with a black front surrounding by white plastic. The new Gen 2 model has an eInk display with a touch power button below it on the front with the entire exterior being a reflective polished hard plastic.
What didn't change is the GEN2 is still an all wireless small cell with no requirement of hard wired backhaul supplied by the user. It still uses LTE UE Relay to acquire an existing Band 25 1900 MHz or Band 41 2500 MHz connection from an existing donor site, which is then fed to the small cell unit and broadcasted as a new LTE Band 41 2500 MHz carrier. The LTE Relay unit supports up to 2 carrier aggregation on Band 41 to the macro donor site.
Now to the meaty parts. The performance. Let these screenshots tell the story.
[Apps used: Network Signal Guru, Signalcheck Pro, Ookla Speedtest]
The extremely significant data speed and signal improvements that were experienced by the original Magic Box still exist with the 2nd generation unit. The GEN2 matches and exceeds the performance of my original Magic Box, especially in the upload category. This is due to the newer LTE Relay module design which utilizes a higher gain antenna. A very satisfactory model upgrade. It upholds the positive impressions I outlined in my original article.
These units just can't come out fast enough so that more people can enjoy it!
The Magic Box is not a panacea, but is a very good solution in many locations. Now that thousands of these preordered boxes are hitting the streets in countless different deployment scenarios, lots of limitations and bugs are being discovered. With varying impacts. The Magic Box doesn't work for everyone everywhere due to the very nature of its all wireless design. In most places, it works as advertised. Just power up and let it rip. In a few locations there is something lacking which causes units to not fully configure. This results in errors such as the infamous "20% initialization" or "cannot connect to mobile network" screens that pop up.
We researched, asked questions and were informed that Sprint's LTE Relay configuration is of the out of band variety. This means that the LTE UE Relay operation and the small cell eNB signal has to operate on different frequencies. So in Sprint's case, a market must have Band 41 High and Low separation in order for a LTE Relay to work. Thus, Sprint must have spectrum in the Band 41 low range (2500-2570 MHz) and the Band 41 high range (2620-2690). If a Sprint market does not have said spectrum with such a separation, the relay link cannot be established and the Magic Box will not work.
In markets where such spectrum peculiarities exist and areas where the macro 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz RF signal is not strong enough to establish a LTE Relay backhaul connection for the Magic Box, there exists other alternatives available from Sprint. These alternatives are the Airave 3 LTE and Commscope S1000 NSC which will be offered to subscribers who do not qualify for a Magic Box or in a location where the Magic Box does not work. The subscriber will require a home broadband connection in those instances.
(Left: Airave 3 LTE, Right: S1000 NSC; credit: ingenium & pwnedkiller)
The Airave 3 LTE is the traditional CDMA + LTE Band 41 + WiFi femto cell. It is the successor the Airaves of old. The Commscope S1000 NSC is a LTE Band 41 + WiFi only femto cell which is in essence the Airave 3 minus the CDMA capabilities. If a subscriber desires voice and data enhancement then the Airave 3 should be what the subscriber seeks. If the subscriber does not need voice enhancement due to sufficient macro voice coverage but need 4G LTE data enhancement, then the S1000 NSC would be a better fit.
There is a solution for just about everyone now. There now exists an all wireless self configuring LTE small cell, a state of the art and award winning LTE small cell, and which when paired with a CDMA module produces the newest successor in the Airave family. All of which will bring extreme improvements that Sprint subscribers can realize instantly.
The densification of Sprint's network is now beginning and it all begins with one quite magic(al) box.
Album of the Magic Box
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates September 5, 2017 - 6:45 PM PDT
It is that time of the year for flagship phablets and LG has returned to us with their brand new V30 smartphone. Unlike the LG G6, LG was not conservative with the specifications on this one.
Many other tech sites and forums have already broken down the V30 but here at S4GRU we are more interested in network technologies and the V30 is definitely no slouch in this regard.
Supported Technologies GSM 850 / 1900 WCDMA Band: 2 / 4 / 5 LTE Band: 2 / 4 / 5 / 12 / 13 / 17 / 25 / 26 / 41
4x4 MIMO on Band 25 and Band 41 up to 10 streams
256 / 64 QAM DL-UL HPUE
2xCA B25 2xCA B41
3xCA B41 4xCA B41
That is right.
The LG V30 is the first device confirmed to support 4 carrier aggregation on Band 41.
No other device out there, including the ever more popular Galaxy S8 or Note 8, are confirmed to at least technologically support 4 carrier aggregation for Band 41 (though maybe a re-certification & software update can fix that). In addition, the LG V30 is also a "Gigabit Class" device that supports 4x4 MIMO over Band 41 for up to 10 total MIMO streams which the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 does not support (the GS8 and Note 8 are not "Gigabit Class" devices on Sprint).
Furthermore, note the inclusion of LTE Band 13. One may think this mean LTE roaming on Verizon may be in the cards, but recently Sprint consummated a partnership with Open Mobile based in Puerto Rico who holds Band 13 750 MHz spectrum. As the Puerto Rico market lacks SMR 800 spectrum needed for CDMA 1x 800 and LTE 800 Band 26, it seems likely that it may be a boutique Sprint market that will utilize 10x10 Band 13 750 MHz for low band coverage. An interesting development.
So network wise, the V30 sure seems like one heck of a device that supports just about every technology Sprint is poised to utilize right now in select markets and most of the network in the near future. A potentially splendid device for the Sprint network enthusiast.
FCC ID: LS998
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
May 19, 2017 - 8:30 AM PDT
The Sprint Magic Box was announced on Sprint's quarterly earning call earlier this month, and was heralded as the first truly all wireless small cell in the industry. So what is this mystical beast that is purported to increase coverage by up to 30,000 square feet, amplifies data speeds, and "boosts" your data signal?
This is the 1st Generation Sprint Magic Box
In more technical terms, the Magic Box is an Airspan product under their Airunity line. The black colored model that exists in the wild, and which I procured contains the Airspan Airunity 540 small cell eNB. Whereas the white colored Magic Box advertised by Sprint is a newer model that contains the Airspan Airunity 545 small cell eNB. The primarily difference is that the unreleased white Magic Box is able to broadcast at twice the transmit power compared to the black model which results in substantially increased coverage area in addition to the LTE UE Relay Module having HPUE capability.
These are all wireless small cells as there is no requirement of a wired backhaul solution like traditional Femto cells like the pending Sprint Airave 3 LTE, Commscope S1000, or the T-mobile LTE Cellspot.
Instead, the Magic Box (MB) utilizes a technology called LTE UE Relay that is integrated into the overall package. The Magic Box contains an Airunity LTE B41 2500 MHz small cell and a LTE UE Relay device called the ninja module whose only job is to establish a data link to a macro eNB LTE 1900 or 2500 MHz signal and then feed a data connection to the Airunity small cell.
For more on LTE UE Relay: see here
Once the Relay link is connected and data flows to the Airunity eNB, a new LTE 2500 MHz signal is then created and broadcasted from the unit. This signal is unique to the Magic Box and is available to use by any compatible Sprint device that can access the LTE Plus (2500 MHz LTE B41) network.
Unlike a repeater setup, the Magic Box does not simply take an existing signal and amplify it and all the accompanying noise and interference. This is a brand new and very clean LTE signal being broadcasted.
The following screenshot from Network Signal Guru app displays this clearly.
The Magic Box in my location broadcasts a brand new LTE carrier with frequency located on EARFCN 40270 (2558 MHz) while the macro donor eNB signal of 40978 (2628 MHz) is used as backhaul (LTE Band 25 1900 MHz can also be used).
[As of July 2017, the Magic Box had its LTE carrier center frequency switched to 2518.4 MHz or EARFCN 39874. Signal Check Pro screenshot]
This means, instead of a weak edge of cell LTE signal with the accompanying band switching that substantially impact device stand by times and I may lose deep inside the building, a Magic Box allows a Sprint device to connect to a strong and clean LTE 2500 MHz signal which blankets the formerly weak LTE coverage area.
As a side effect, LTE speeds may also be dramatically increased due to the better signal level and quality being broadcasted by the MB whose LTE Relay Module can connect to what may have been previously an unusable 2500 MHz network. Especially when placed by a window as recommended.
Album of Screenshots
In my more than one month of observations using the Magic Box, I was able to connect to a LTE 2500 MHz signal from inside a suburban family residential building where such a signal was previously unusable. Furthermore, not only did the Magic Box boost the data signal from weak edge of cell service with consistent frequency swapping that had previously killed our devices battery life, but it also increased the LTE data speeds substantially to the tune of 200-300% over what we were previously getting over LTE 800 and 1900 MHz.
Whereas previously the house was a weak coverage area where LTE 800 MHz was predominant with even parts dropping to EVDO 3G, the new LTE signal broadcasted by the MB covers the entire house and then some through multiple interior walls and even an exterior brick wall before handing over back to the macro network.
So what's my view on the Magic Box?
It can't come soon™ enough for more people to use and enjoy.
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates December 15, 2016 - 9:40 PM PDT
It's been but a blink of an eye since Sprint CTO Gunther's last Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) but he's back!
Right now, December 16, 2016 at 11 AM to 12 PM PDT, he is doing his second AMA on R/Sprint.
Be sure to check it out and ask him many questions that have kept you from blissful nights of rest.
by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
September 11, 2016 - 12:30 PM PDT
We have many good friends over at the Sprint Reddit page, and many of our members spend a lot of time there. They are excited at their recent score to host an AMA with Sprint's new COO of Technology, Günther Ottendorfer.
S4GRU wants to help spread the news. The AMA is scheduled for tomorrow, September 12th from 1:30 - 2:30pm Central Daylight Time. This should be an exciting exchange for S4GRU members, as Mr. Ottendorfer is responsibile for overseeing Sprint’s network, technology and IT organizations, including related strategy, network operations and performance, as well as partnerships with network, technology and IT vendors.
As stated in the Sprint Subreddit page, "Günther looks forward to answering your questions on Sprint's pioneering efforts, network performance, LTE Plus network, network technology and roadmap, LTE Advanced, 5G, Network Function Virtualization (NFV), spectrum, and its Densification & Optimization strategy."
Be sure to check it out!
by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, August 19, 2016 - 2:04 AM MDT
Earlier this week, the two HTC 2016 Nexus handsets -- codenamed "Marlin" and "Sailfish" -- were caught in the net of the FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) authorization database.
While Google has yet to reveal them officially as Nexus handsets, that HTC is the manufacturer of choice this year has been a heavily leaked secret the past few months. And the circumstantial evidence now is overwhelming.
The FCC grantee code, NM8G, appends a "G" to the usual NM8 grantee code for HTC branded devices, and the user manual declaration document posits that the final draft manual will be available publicly on the Google web site in the Nexus support section. Neither handset has been identified or named individually, though the 2PW4100 likely is the larger "Marlin," the 2PW2100, the smaller "Sailfish."
Both are at least the domestic variants with airlink support across the board for VZW, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. No international variants have passed through the FCC OET. Unless international variants do get authorized in the coming days/weeks, the two HTC Nexus handsets could end up in uncharted waters as single variants for the world, covering all supported international LTE bands, too. Full disclosure, however, probably will have to wait until the Google announcement event when accompanying tech specs are published.
In the meantime, the domestic RF uplink test results and declarations are out in the world. S4GRU will not run down every last RF capability. But, just to confirm, some of the highlights are...
LTE bands 2/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/30/41
VoLTE bands 2/4/5/12/13 (for VZW, AT&T, and T-Mobile)
Downlink 2x/3x CA
Dual, switched WWAN Tx antennas 0 and 1, bottom and top
802.11ac 2x MIMO
The primary purpose of this article is to present a retrospective on the uplink RF powers of the current 2013-2016 era of 3GPP/3GPP2, Sprint compatible Nexus handsets as well as two recent HTC handsets. Those domestic variant Nexus handsets and the Sprint variant HTC One A9 and HTC 10 are the RF and design forebears of the 2016 Nexus handsets. So, how do the new kids on the block hold up to their predecessors?
S4GRU culled relevant data across all eight handsets from thousands of pages of authorization documents in the FCC OET. For the radiated power figures, the usual clauses about lab testing versus real world performance and uplink versus downlink always apply. The figures represent best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink ERP/EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET in the authorization filings for the domestic variant Nexus devices and Sprint variant HTC devices. See below:
The numbers can speak for themselves. The LG, Motorola, and Huawei manufactured handsets generally are more powerful. The HTC handsets are not blatantly deficient -- though the One A9 comes uncomfortably close -- but the 2016 Nexus do spec out typically average or slightly below.
by Tim Yu
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, April 8, 2016 - 3:40 PM MDT
Over the past week, S4GRU members in multiple Sprint markets have discovered new EARFCNs and corresponding GCI endings that identify new Band 41 LTE carriers.
The EARFCN is the center frequency of an LTE carrier that, along with the carrier bandwidth, identifies the carrier placement and occupied spectrum.
As Sprint is doing intraband contiguous/adjacent carrier aggregation -- 20 MHz TDD Band 41 carriers are lined up right next to one another with no gaps -- Band 41 EARFCNs are highly predictable in a given market by knowing the location of at least one carrier.
Say the ever popular EARFCN 40978 is the first carrier.
You add 198 (19.8 MHz) to it to get EARFCN 41176, which is the second Band 41 carrier.
Thus, it stands to reason if you add 198 to that EARFCN, you will get the third Band 41 carrier so 41176 + 198 = 41374, the EARFCN for the third Band 41 carrier.
Or, in some other markets, 41078 is the first Band 41 carrier. In this case, it goes like this: 41078 + 198 = 41276 + 198 = 41474
Alternatively, say a market has EARFCNs 40056 and 40254. Adding 198 would bring us to EARFCN 40452, but that is not possible due to the BRS/EBS 2500-2600 MHz band plan -- there are spectrum gaps around 2570 MHz and 2610 MHz that Sprint cannot utilize. See the band plan:
Thus, in the case of EARFCNs 40056 and 40254, not addition, but use subtraction: 40056 - 198 = 39858, which would be the third Band 41 carrier.
The GCI is the unique cell sector identifier of a LTE carrier.
Generally speaking, Sprint's GCI patterns are standardized market by market and network wide, making for an easy method to identify each LTE carrier within a given band. In the case of Band 41, GCIs ending in 00/01/02 (Samsung) or x1/x2/x3 (ALU/NSN) indicate a connection to the original and first Band 41 carrier. GCIs ending in 03/04/05 (STA) or x9/xA/xB (ALU/NSN) denote the second Band 41 carrier.
It stands to reason that -- if this second carrier pattern were to continue to the third Band 41 carrier in Samsung markets -- we would expect to see GCIs possibly ending in 06/07/08. Long story short, this theory is supported by evidence. See below SignalCheck Pro logs and numerous in app screenshots:
This log is from my Nexus 5x. I traveled for a hour around Sacramento, searching for the third Band 41 carrier. Note the GCI endings for the Sprint Band 41 entries:
The following is from site member bmoses in Des Moines. Note the 07 GCI ending and EARFCN:
Below is from a S4GRU member in the Colorado market:
One more from the Cincinnati, Ohio Market:
The following is from yours truly in Sacramento:
And these below are from Fremont, CA, near San Jose:
See those EARFCNs and GCI endings? Look at the calculations from the top of this PSA. Everything is as we would have predicted for a third carrier.
With the end of the WiMAX injunction and the decomissioning of the last active Clearwire WiMAX markets that held up huge swaths of leased EBS and licensed BRS spectrum, Sprint finally has the capability to show off its deep spectrum pockets in numerous markets. This has been long awaited and should definitely give a huge boost to Sprint data speeds in numerous markets where spectrum for additional Band 41 carriers now is available. Of course, there still is the issue of actually connecting to and using this third Band 41 carrier.
From firsthand reports and personal use, this third Band 41 carrier is not currently carrier aggregation enabled. Thus, 2x/3x CA devices may not connect to it to use data right now. By default, these devices will have CA enabled, causing them to utilize only the first and second carriers that they can aggregate. For the time being, in order to reliably connect to this third carrier, a non CA triband device or a 2x/3x CA setting disabled triband device may be required. Regardless, this appears to be just a minor issue from the initial rollouts that should be resolved soon.
Source: S4GRU member reports
by Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 9:13 PM MDT
Authors Edit (8/25/16): According to a report, the LG G5 (and HTC 9) is indeed capable of 3xCA specifically for Sprint due to the intraband contiguous setup Sprint utilizes.
The spotlight may have been largely on the Samsung Galaxy for the past few weeks, but from behind the red moon, a new contender has revealed itself.
To keep it short, as per typical of a S4GRU teaser article, the model LS992 Sprint variant LG G5 had its FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) authorization filings uploaded earlier this week. This is the 2016 flagship from LG for Sprint that will be available to subscribers soon. In keeping with S4GRU interests, we will take a look at the cellular technology side of the phone.
LTE Band: 2 / 4 / 5 / 7 / 12 / 25 / 26 / 41
CDMA Band Class: 0 / 1 / 10
GSM: 850 / 1900
WCDMA Band: 2 / 4 / 5
Pretty typical for a Sprint device of this time. It supports the standard Sprint LTE setup of Bands 25/26/41 and CCA/RRPP Bands 2/4/5/12. The FCC filings did not disclose international band support.
What many are interested in though, especially after the Samsung Galaxy S7 S4GRU article, is carrier aggregation combinations. Is the G5 a 3x CA device for Sprint? Well, the following excerpt from the FCC OET filing tells the story.
The LG G5 LS992 is not 3x CA B41 capable -- unlike the Sprint variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
The G5 supports 2x CA intraband contiguous Band 41 and 2x CA intraband non contiguous Band 25. This is somewhat surprising, as both the G5 and the Galaxy S7 have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, which has the Snapdragon X12 LTE baseband and 3x CA capability on die. Most likely, though, the RF transceiver is limited to 2x CA and/or the modem configuration is different.
Barring a Class II Permissive Change filing or a refresh model for the G5, it appears the Galaxy S7 variants still hold the crown for the first and only 3x CA B41 capable devices on the Sprint network.
But the G5 does hold one advantage over the Galaxy S7 variants for Sprint.
Note the S4GRU highlighted portion of the FCC OET filing.
This is the first VoLTE certified device for Sprint. VoLTE will not work right out of the box, however. It is a latent capability until the Sprint network activates VoLTE. Consider this is a hint, though, that VoLTE may become a user option this year.
To begin the wrap up, the FCC OET filings do grace us with an antenna diagram -- something that is increasingly hidden behind a shroud of confidentiality.
There you have it: an initial look at the cellular tech side of the soon to be released Sprint variant LG G5.
Source: FCC ZNFLS992
by Tim Yu
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, March 4, 2016 - 8:25 AM MST
A little over two weeks ago, S4GRU published an article detailing a multi-market PCS 1900 MHz swap between Sprint and AT&T that increased spectrum contiguity for both operators in several markets. In that article, we mentioned how that spectrum swap might be the first of many, as there are numerous other markets in which Sprint and other licensees could mutually benefit by realigning disparate spectrum holdings into larger contiguous stretches for more efficient LTE spectrum utilization.
And late last week, that expectation came to the fore. It was discovered that AT&T was not the only dance partner. Rather, T-Mobile and VZW also entered the fray, as Sprint and both operators had contemporaneously filed PCS spectrum assignment applications with the FCC.
Results of the Latest Spectrum Swap
As seen in the embedded screenshot, Sprint primarily is targeting additional spectrum in the PCS C block. Detailed in our last article, the PCS C block is adjacent to the PCS G block in which Sprint's existing 5 MHz FDD Band 25 LTE carrier is deployed. These swaps pave the way in a greater number of markets for expansion from that 5 MHz FDD carrier to a 10-15-20 MHz FDD carrier and subsequent higher maximum speeds in Band 25.
In total, about 50 million POPs so far will be affected by the spectrum transactions in these pending agreements among Sprint and AT&T, T-Mobile, and VZW. Furthermore, this may not be where the story ends. Once the FCC approves these applications, other PCS spectrum realignment among the big four operators may follow. Sprint also may pursue spectrum deals with smaller operators.
Stay tuned. S4GRU will have the scoop.
Source: FCC (VZW), FCC (T-Mobile), S4GRU (AT&T), S4GRU Spreadsheet
by Tim Yu and Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 6:25 AM MST
Call it a comeback. The band, the PCS band is getting back together. Pun intended. You will understand soon.
After a two year absence, the popular one, two, three part "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" article series is back for an encore. For full comprehension, refer back to those articles -- and others linked throughout this article. We will lead you in the direction of learning. No worries.
But now with a lead writer duo and a change in artistic direction, the topic of this article has shifted from engineering screens to band 25 expanded bandwidth primary carriers. The frequency focus, though, remains the same.
Perhaps also long overdue, Sprint finally has entered the spectrum alignment game of musical chairs that VZW, AT&T, and T-Mobile have been playing for a while in the AWS-1 and PCS bands. In this case, Sprint and AT&T are the dance partners. More on that after some PCS band background.
The PCS 1900 MHz spectrum alphabet is not quite what might be expected to the uninitiated. Sequentially, the band runs A, D, B, E, F, C, G. Without delving too much into the 25 year old history and politics of the band, that alphabet is a product of block sizes -- PCS A/B/C blocks are 30 MHz (15 MHz FDD), PCS D/E/F blocks are 10 MHz (5 MHz FDD) -- and spectrum caps at the time of FCC auctions in the 1990s that allowed licensees to obtain up to 45 MHz of total spectrum in urban markets, 55 MHz of total spectrum in rural markets. The spectrum cap, by the way, is long gone, replaced with a spectrum screen by a free market frenzy FCC administration over a decade ago.
For the time being, set aside the PCS G block, which is 10 MHz (5 MHz FDD). It was created much later, never auctioned. Rather, it was compensatory to Nextel for spectrum losses incurred in rebanding Public Safety SMR 800 MHz. Sprint now holds all PCS G block licenses nationwide.
So, back to the 1995-2003 era, a Cellular 850 MHz incumbent with a Cellular A/B block 25 MHz (12.5 MHz FDD) license in Chicago, for example, could not acquire also a PCS A/B/C block license -- that would push it over the 45 MHz urban market total spectrum cap. But that incumbent could acquire also a PCS D/E/F block license and stay under the cap.
Along the same lines, a new entrant into a market could acquire one PCS A/B/C block license and one PCS D/E/F block license for 40 MHz of total spectrum that could be contiguous within the convoluted A, D, B, E, F, C, G alphabet. That possibility, though, did not come to pass much at FCC auction 20 years ago. Spectrum contiguity was not all that important for GSM, IS-136 TDMA, and cdmaOne/CDMA2000, not even so much for W-CDMA. But with LTE, circumstances have changed.
That is a lot of abstract information. To put a face to the name, see a visual representation of the entire PCS band plan, followed by three exploded views of just the adjacent PCS C and G blocks:
The uplink runs 1850-1915 MHz, the downlink 1930-1995 MHz, separated by an 80 MHz FDD offset. In the figures below the full PCS band plan, see the three exploded views of the PCS C and G blocks -- soon to be the focus of this "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" article.
The first of the three exploded views above shows the intact PCS C 30 MHz (15 MHz FDD) block -- this is relatively rare among licenses. Long story somewhat short, most PCS C block licenses had to be auctioned by the FCC multiple times, as many original Designated Entity entrepreneur/minority class winners found that they ultimately could not afford their licenses and construct networks. A quote from a previous S4GRU article:
So, for reauction, most PCS C block licenses were disaggregated into smaller, easier to afford blocks. Note the PCS C1/C2 15 MHz (7.5 MHz FDD) blocks and PCS C3/C4/C5 10 MHz (5 MHz FDD) blocks in the second and third exploded views of the PCS C and G blocks.
That whole PCS C block medley will come into play up next. Just be sure to note in the band plan diagrams the spectrum contiguity of the PCS C + PCS G, PCS C1 + PCS G, or PCS C5 + PCS G block combinations.
A few weeks back, S4GRU received whispered word and saw PRL change indications that Sprint internally was discussing and prepping for spectrum swaps, whereby Sprint would trade some less strategic PCS holdings in return for PCS C block spectrum that is contiguous with its PCS G block. This type of deal would grant Sprint contiguous PCS holdings to expand LTE from a 5 MHz FDD carrier to a 10 MHz FDD carrier -- or even beyond to a 15-20 MHz FDD carrier in the future when CDMA2000 is significantly pruned or decommissioned.
For a visual depiction of one previous example of LTE in the PCS G block expanded into the contiguous PCS C block, thus going from 5 MHz FDD to 10 MHz FDD, see a graphic of what already has happened with earlier, unrelated spectrum transactions in Columbus, OH:
Compare to the exploded views earlier in this article of the PCS C and G blocks. And read our Columbus 10 MHz FDD discovery article for further background.
Then, for those aforementioned spectrum rearrangement rumors to come to fruition, we did not have to wait long at all. In what may be the first of many such spectrum deals, Sprint and AT&T filed with the FCC last week applications to swap PCS spectrum in several Basic Trading Area (BTA) markets:
In summary, both Sprint and AT&T make out pretty well in this deal. Both parties will be able to improve their respective PCS spectrum contiguity. It is a quid pro quo.
All spectrum Sprint acquires will be PCS C block, while all spectrum AT&T acquires in exchange will be PCS A, B, D, or F block. The important takeaways are that Sprint will be able to expand LTE from the PCS G block into the PCS C block for a 10-15 MHz FDD carrier -- but that Sprint will have to eliminate or relocate CDMA2000 operations in the aforementioned blocks shipped off to AT&T.
For Sprint, all of the listed markets then will have 20 MHz (10 MHz FDD) of contiguous PCS spectrum, quite a few 30 MHz (15 MHz FDD) or even 40 MHz (20 MHz FDD) of contiguous PCS spectrum. Sprint will be able to expand LTE carrier bandwidth -- instead of adding a 5 MHz FDD band 25 second carrier -- as well as reduce CDMA2000 carrier guard band spectrum usage to a minimum.
The FCC approval of these applications is in zero doubt. It will be a rubber stamp. All transfers are relatively even spectrum swaps and in the public interest. But carrier reconfiguration will not happen right away. Sprint and AT&T have set up spectrum leases for each other in the interim. For Sprint, it will have to pare down and/or relocate CDMA2000 carriers to the acquired PCS C block spectrum. That is the reason behind the PRL updates, which will aid CDMA2000 acquisition once any carriers change frequencies.
S4GRU loves to encourage engineering screen watching -- just as we have done in the previous "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" articles. The more you know. See the three articles linked at the beginning of this article.
Now, for those in markets listed in this transaction, watch for LTE EARFCNs to switch from 8665/26665 to 8640/26640. The latter is a clear sign of 10 MHz FDD. S4GRU tracks these in its EARFCN thread, which we update periodically. Additionally, original CDMA carrier channel assignments will vary considerably, but watch for any carriers in band class 1 to shift to the 900-1200 range.
Full disclosure, not all counties in the listed BTAs will be affected the same -- because of existing spectrum partitions and disaggregations. Those in outlying areas may not benefit, but all titular BTA cities will gain 20-40 MHz (10-20 MHz FDD) of contiguous PCS C block + PCS G block spectrum and should deploy at least 10 MHz FDD band 25 in the coming months.
With that said, Sprint finally gets back into the game of horse trading spectrum with a competitor -- instead of sitting on the sidelines watching the others do these deals to their own benefit all the time. T-Mobile defines its band 4 "wideband" LTE as 15-20 MHz FDD. Sprint already has plenty of band 41 at 20 MHz TDD, more and more everyday with the WiMAX shutdown. But soon, Sprint also may have "wideband" LTE in band 25. We shall see. Expect to hear it here first.
S4GRU had the heads up on previous 10 MHz FDD possibilities already four years ago -- exactly four years to the date of the Sprint-AT&T spectrum transfer applications at the FCC last week. Coincidence?
For a more detailed look at the pluses and minuses of the spectrum swaps in the noted markets, see our S4GRU spreadsheet.
by Josh McDaniel, Tim Yu, and Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 11:50 PM MST
Update: Further inspection of the FCC OET authorization filings has shown that while Samsung will produce only one "US" hardware variant each for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, it still will delineate operator specific "V," "A," "T," "P," and "R4" variants via firmware.
That firmware on the Sprint "P" variant, for example, will enable CCA/RRPP compliant bands 2/4/5/12/25/26/41 but disable VZW band 13, AT&T bands 29/30, and VoLTE. Similar segmentation applies to the other domestic variants, such as the AT&T "A" variant and T-Mobile "T" variant, both of which disable CDMA2000 and Sprint bands 25/26/41.
Thus, the single SKU aspect for the "US" hardware variants of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge will be limited to their respective FCC IDs. At the retail and end user levels, separate SKUs and model numbers still will exist for the operator specific airlink/band firmware packages.
S4GRU hopes, however, that Samsung will use this consolidated hardware platform now as means also to sell unlocked BYOD versions of both handsets that will have full airlink/band firmware across all domestic operators.
Per Samsung Galaxy astronomy, the "V" suffix has been for VZW, the "A" suffix for AT&T, the "T" suffix for T-Mobile, the "P" suffix for Sprint, and the "R4" suffix for regional operators.
But what does the "US" suffix mean for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge?
Both handsets A3LSMG930US and A3LSMG935US bearing the "US" suffix in their model numbers were intentionally/unintentionally outed today in the FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) database -- weeks in advance of their supposed official reveals at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.
Okay, the seventh generation of Samsung Galaxy handsets is a big deal. That said, what is so special about these two device authorizations?
Well, these two authorization filings with the FCC cover the entire gamut of supported LTE bands for every single US operator -- and include downlink three carrier aggregation support. Even before Apple, Samsung appears on the verge of single SKU handsets for the US.
VZW band 13. Sure. AT&T bands 29 and 30. Right on. T-Mobile band 12. Absolutely. Sprint bands 25, 26, and 41. Positively. Carrier aggregation. Yup.
Furthermore, as both Samsung handsets support CDMA2000, that is strong indication Samsung has reversed course from the the sixth generation of Samsung Galaxy handsets and included Qualcomm baseband modems in all domestic handsets. Almost assuredly, the chip of choice is the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem. That detail, though, is not yet available. On a similar count, tested RF ERP/EIRP figures are beyond the purview of this teaser. However, S4GRU may follow up later on all of the above.
In the meantime, here are the nitty gritty Galaxy S7 domestic airlink specs. The FCC filings did not disclose -- nor are they required to disclose -- international airlink support.
Samsung Galaxy S7
GSM / GPRS / EDGE: 850 / 1900
W-CDMA Band: 2 / 4 / 5
CDMA Band Class: 0 / 1 / 10
LTE Band: 2 / 4 / 5 / 12 / 13 / 25 / 26 / 29 (downlink only) / 30 / 41
LTE Carrier Aggregation:
2+4 / 2+5/ 2+12 / 2+13 / 2+29 / 2+30
4+2 / 4+4 / 4+5 / 4+12 / 4+13 / 4+29 / 4+30
5+2 / 5+4 / 5+30 /
12+2 / 12+4 / 12+30
13+2 / 13+4
30+2 / 30+4 / 30+5 / 30+12 / 30+29
2+4+12 / 2+4+13 / 2+5+30 / 2+12+30 / 2+29+30
4+2+12 / 4+2+13 / 4+4+12 / 4+5+13 / 4+5+12 / 4+5+30 / 4+12+30 / 4+29+30
12+4+2 / 13+2+4
30+2 +5 / 30+2+12 / 30+2+29 / 30+4+5 / 30+4+12 / 30+4+29
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
GSM / GPRS / EDGE: 850 / 1900
W-CDMA Band: 2 / 4 / 5
CDMA Band Class: 0 / 1 / 10
LTE Band: 2 / 4 / 5 / 12 / 13 / 25 / 26 / 29 (downlink only) / 30 / 41
LTE Carrier Aggregation:
2+4 / 2+5 / 2+12 / 2+ 13 / 2+29 / 2+30
4+2 / 4+4 / 4+5 / 4+12 / 4+13 / 4+29 / 4+30
5+2 / 5+4 / 5+30 /
12+2 / 12+4 / 12+30
13+2 / 13+4
30+2 / 30+4 / 30+5 / 30+ 12 / 30+29
2+4+12 / 2+4+13 / 2+5+30 / 2+12+30 / 2+29+30
4+2+12/ 4+2+13 / 4+4+12 / 4+5+13/ 4+5+12 / 4+5+30 / 4+12+30 / 4+29+30
12+4+2 / 13+2+4
30+2 +5 / 30+2+12 / 30+2+29 / 30+4+5 / 30+4+12 / 30+4+29
Note in bold text the Sprint relevant 2x CA combinations each for band 25 and band 41, then 3x CA combinations for band 41.
One SKU, one "US" device variant for all in the US, just like or better than iPhone and Nexus? By all appearances, yes. And while S4GRU is a Sprint centric blog and web site, this Samsung development has ramifications for millions of VZW, AT&T, T-Mobile, USCC, et al., users, too.
You heard it here first -- at S4GRU.
by Tim Yu
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Monday, January 25, 2016 - 8:30 AM MST
For the past year, Sprint has commented a lot about its coming "Next Generation Network" deployment that aims to improve greatly Sprint's network capacity and coverage. Much of that speculation has been over how Sprint intends to feed backhaul to the "tens of thousands" of small cells it plans to deploy -- given Sprint's past history on getting backhaul delivered to its own macro cell sites as part of Network Vision.
Last summer, Sprint began talking up its "treasure trove" of 2.5 GHz spectrum as wireless backhaul for its small cells. Many speculated on exactly how this would be done -- with some online netizens theorizing Sprint actually would use part of its 2.5 GHz spectrum in a setup like microwave backhaul.
So, how exactly is Sprint going to use its 2.5 GHz spectrum as backhaul? The answer is a simple yet not often spoken about LTE Advanced technology:
LTE UE Relay
Over the past half a year, S4GRU staff repeatedly were told by Sprint employees that 2.5 GHz was going to be used as wireless backhaul. But there was not a lot of explanation on the technical side on how Sprint would accomplish that. That is until we discovered exactly what it was on a document sent to us almost a year ago that described several then ongoing projects being tested internally by Sprint.
LTE UE Relay is a fairly recent technology introduced in 3GPP Release 10. Courtesy of a Nokia Siemens Networks white paper on the topic of LTE Relay, the following is a well made depiction of a network utilizing relay nodes in action.
So, how does LTE UE Relay work?
A way to think of a Relay Node or LTE UE Relay (i.e. a small cell using 2.5 GHz as backhaul) is as a cell repeater. Yet, there is a significant difference in how a relay node and a repeater operate. Whereas a repeater increases coverage simply by amplifying a specific frequency range -- including all accompanying noise and interference -- a relay node demodulates and remodulates the signal, then transmits its own signal.
To put it in simple terms, one can think of a relay node being something akin to a Wi-Fi hotspot utilizing the LTE network for its data connection-- except in this case, the relay node is not transmitting a Wi-Fi signal but an LTE signal.
Thus, wherever there is even a speck of Band 41 coverage available, Sprint can plop down a relay node and use the existing LTE signal as backhaul for a small cell unit to increase local area coverage and capacity. This is because the small cell unit transmits a crisp, clean, new LTE signal in the area it is designed to cover, and UEs in that area would connect to this stronger signal.
As per the above image, an LTE Relay setup is quick to deploy and provides both an immediate impact on the local network and increased coverage/capacity for all compatible UEs in its coverage area -- without the need to wait for traditional backhaul, which could takes many weeks or months and be dependent on variables outside of Sprint's control.
But what about downsides of using LTE UE Relay as a backhaul setup?
For one, the speed of the LTE signal that is transmitted by the relay nodes is only as fast as that of the donor site -- be it a relay node (relay nodes can be serially chained), a fiber or microwave backhaul fed small cell, or a macro cell. If there is heavy congestion on the donor site sector, then the relay will also be just as "fast" as the connections that other UEs on the donor sector get. So, if the LTE carriers on the donor site is congested and running say 2-3 Mbps, connections to the relay node would go as fast as that.
Another potential issue is that a relay node may expand coverage into a hugely populated area with high load demands and by itself congest the LTE carrier that is providing the backhaul connection to the site. Even though the LTE carrier from the donor site could be running well at 20-30 Mbps speeds originally, the extra loading from the relay node could be just enough to congest that entire sector. In such a case, using a relay may be problematic, and it might be better instead to utilize more traditional backhaul like fiber, Ethernet, or microwave.
So, what is the point of writing all that?
Recently, an attentive S4GRU member discovered a post on LinkedIn, and an attached image caught the attention of S4GRU staff.
Image Credit: Omar Masry
It is not that it is a small cell setup that caught our eye but that subsequent comments noted there were no fiber connections at all, it utilizes a Nokia Flexi Zone pico cell, and it resides in the Boston, MA region.
Among the major operators in the US, there are only two users of Nokia Networks equipment: Sprint and T-Mobile.
T-Mobile only recently has commenced talk about deploying small cells of such type. To deploy a small cell without traditional fiber backhaul while utilzing a relay antenna and not even talk about it would be a departure for T-Mobile, which is known for issuing many press releases on new LTE Advanced technologies being implemented on its network. Furthermore, the Northeast is an Ericsson vendor region for T-Mobile. Nokia has no business doing anything there, leaving the other potential user as Sprint.
There was some speculation on why Nokia would be deploying their LTE Band 41 small cell equipment in an Alcatel-Lucent vendor region -- considering Alcatel-Lucent and its partner AirSpan have their own Band 41 equipment designs. But Sprint has said that the deployment would be unconventional and utilize non traditional methods of deployment, so this must have been part of that strategy. Nokia Networks also is in the process of acquiring Alcatel-Lucent. That may be a factor but is a topic for another day.
[Edit: Nokia has completed their purchase of Alcatel-Lucent so mystery solved.]
What was discovered is that Mobilitie has been applying for permits to deploy wooden poles in Salem, MA and presumably other cities as part of the Next Generation Network small cell densification project. The ever watchful eyes of an S4GRU Ohio based sponsor group member base quickly went to work and discovered an application by Mobilitie that gives a full rundown of what exactly the company seeks to install.
Note the permit application engineering details and the pictures from the LinkedIn post.
See the similarities?
In addition to the near exact matching of details from the proposed setup in the filing and the pictures in the LinkedIn post, the application by Mobilitie, which is widely rumored to be Sprint's primary small cell deployment partner, also provided a site cascade ID: BS90XS933.
As per S4GRU sponsor maps detailing nearly all of Sprint's macro sites across the nation, here are a few examples of Sprint macro cell cascade IDs in the Boston market: BS03XC063, BS23XC461, BS60XC325.
Gee whiz! I wonder for whom Mobilitie could be deploying these wooden poles and smell cell setups.
Here is the LinkedIn image labeled according to details found in the application by Mobilitie.
As with everything Sprint does, this relay technology is not one magical fix it all for Sprint's network. Sprint has much to do to continue to improve its network and brand image.
LTE UE Relay is a very new technology not without its cons. Yet, it is an interesting direction Sprint is going with regards to backhaul to the projected tens of thousands of small cells deployed as part of the Next Generation Network.
Of course, what is more important than the theoretical talk is the discovery above of practical setup and engineering documentation. There is solid proof now that Sprint has started at least one portion of the long awaited and much talked about Next Generation Network deployment.
So, keep an eye out for such local permit applications by Mobilitie and potentially other unnamed partners, and observe your surrounding environments. One or more such small cell setups just may pop up near you without warning soon...
Sources for tech talk: 1, 2, 3
by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Sunday, December 27, 2015 - 8:30 PM MST (edited)
Happy New Year!
Some of you are aware that S4GRU maintains a gift account/scholarship account. When a member cannot afford to renew or upgrade, we draw from this account to help others in need. It seems like this year we have had more people down on their luck than in past years, and our scholarship account has been fully depleted. We use this to fund not only people down on their luck, but also the many budding teenage wireless enthusiasts around our site and those who borrow a few bucks to upgrade but then pay it back.
If you are able to contribute to help others this time of year to maintain their S4GRU accounts, please make acontribution to the S4GRU PayPal account. Please reference in the notes section GIFT ACCOUNT. Once your donation is logged, you will receive a message that your donation has been added to the scholarship account. And when your donation is used for a worthy member in the future, you will receive a message about the details for whom and how it was used.
Hopefully, past donaters to the Gift/Scholarship Account will sound off in our forums with their testimonials of how well it has worked for them to help fellow S4GRU'ers!
One of the great things about gift donations, is that both the giver and the recipient get credit for the donation for future Premier and Honored Premier upgrades. It's a gift that keeps on giving! And several of our members who have received gifts in the past have turned around and become very generous givers when their finances have turned around. I am always amazed at how generous our members can be.
And truth be told, S4GRU benefits from this as well. Not only is it the leanest time of year for our members, it's the leanest time of year for S4GRU as well. Promotions are the only things that really keep the donations coming in the Fall and Winter So help support your fellow S4GRU members down on their luck and S4GRU too. Be sure to list GIFT ACCOUNT in the notes of your PayPal donation or send a message to S4GRU after completing your donation.
If you have given to this fund in the past, we hope we can count on you again this year! And thank you for your past support.
Thank you for considering a donation to the S4GRU Gift/Scholarship Account.
NOTE: Recurring donations during this time cannot be considered for the gift/scholarship account.
by Tim Yu and Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 2:55 AM MST
S4GRU staff is burning the well past midnight oil for our readers. Overnight, Sprint has unofficially updated its network coverage map tool to include LTE Roaming+ and LTE Roaming acquired via its participation in the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) Roaming Hub and its own Rural Roaming Preferred Partners (RRPP) program. The coverage tool LTE roaming update clearly is a work in progress -- more on that later. But LTE roaming is finally here.
So, what is the difference between LTE Roaming+ and LTE Roaming?
A simple explanation is that LTE Roaming+ is pseudo native coverage. Sprint users will access certain other LTE networks without roaming restrictions and can treat them as native. Usage does not count against any roaming cap, the only restrictions being the plan type ("unlimited" vs data allotment).
LTE Roaming is non native, off network coverage. Usage is counted against Sprint plan roaming caps. Older plans, such as the Everything Data, have a 300 MB limit, while newer plans, like Framily, are limited to 100 MB.
For a specific LTE roaming footprint example, see this coverage tool screenshot centered around Sprint's headquarters in the Kansas City metro. From the LTE roaming legend, the dark green LTE Roaming+ in western Kansas is Nex-Tech Wireless, and you can catch a glimpse of the same LTE Roaming+ from C Spire south of Memphis. The light green is LTE Roaming, all of which appears to be USCC at this point. Elsewhere, you will find LTE Roaming on USCC in its Pacific Northwest, Southeast, and New England regions. There is still map work to do -- note the LTE Roaming legend "@TODO will we have a description here?" More LTE Roaming+ and LTE Roaming operator coverage may be added in the coming hours or days.
Due to Sprint's unique LTE Band 25-26-41 network configuration, not all Sprint LTE capable devices will be able to roam on partner networks, which may use different bands, such as Band 2 (PCS 1900 MHz A-F blocks), Band 4 (AWS-1 1700+2100 MHz), Band 5 (Cellular 850 MHz), and Band 12 (Lower 700 MHz)
As such, a CCA/RRPP compatible Sprint triband device, of which many were released in the past year, is the best bet for full network compatibility with partner LTE networks. A CCA/RRPP device will have LTE Band 2-4-5-12-25-26-41 support, which basically covers all of the standard LTE bands in use in the US -- minus VZW Band 13 and AT&T Band 17. No matter, VZW and AT&T presently are not LTE roaming partners with Sprint.
If Multi Frequency Band Indicator (MFBI) is active at the network level, a regular Sprint triband device (Bands 25-26-41) may be able to access some partner networks -- due to Band 25 (PCS 1900 MHz A-G blocks) and Band 26 (eSMR 800 MHz + Cellular 850 MHz) being supersets of Band 2 and Band 5, respectively. However, these triband devices will not roam if the partner network uses Band 4 or Band 12.
An older single band Sprint LTE Band 25 device will be even more restricted. If it can roam at all, it will be limited to partner networks that use Band 2, again assuming MFBI.
A few months ago, Sprint upgraded much off network coverage for most accounts from only CDMA1X to EV-DO. Now, a lot of that same roaming footprint gets elevated a second time to LTE. Sprint LTE, eHRPD/EV-DO, and CDMA1X coverage still will hold highest priority. Whether LTE Roaming+ or LTE Roaming, it will not supersede Sprint eHRPD/EV-DO or CDMA1X signal. But outside of all Sprint native coverage, roaming gets another boost.
LTE roam, roam if you want to.
Sources: Sprint, S4GRU thread
by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 3:07 PM MST
Yes, you read that correctly. Thanks to the mid range Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 (MSM8952), the HTC One A9 is the first Sprint handset to include a modem that supports uplink 2x CA (carrier aggregation). That comes on die via the X8 LTE modem, which is a Category 7 LTE baseband, capable of aggregating up to 40 MHz FDD/TDD 2x CA on both the uplink and downlink. Now, before anyone gets too excited, Sprint has no imminent plans to enable uplink 2x CA at the network level. So, the uplink 2x CA support is mostly a proof of concept novelty.
If you have been reading The Wall at S4GRU for a while, you probably know where this is headed. It is another in our classic series of FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) RF authorization analysis articles. We do not dwell on processor benchmarks, screen qualities, etc. If you want that info, read reviews or visit the HTC tech specs site. Instead, we cut right to the heart of what a cellphone is -- a cellular RF device -- and rundown its lab tested cellular RF performance.
The One A9 filed its FCC OET authorizations over a month ago, but with Sprint selling the handset as we speak and HTC shipping the unlocked Sprint variant next week, we should take a look. Let us start with the band/class support:
CDMA2000 Band Class 0/1/10
W-CDMA Band 1/2/4/5
LTE Band 2/4/5/12/25/26/41
The Sprint and CCA/RRPP band support is expected at this point. But all of the GSM/W-CDMA band support info comes directly from the HTC tech specs. I state that explicitly because there is no testing of domestic GSM/W-CDMA in the FCC OET documents. Barring a Class II Permissive Change filing with the FCC, the GSM/W-CDMA support purely is for international roaming. While the Sprint variant One A9 can be unlocked or even purchased unlocked, it is not authorized for use on AT&T or T-Mobile -- unless you can live with no GSM/W-CDMA, only band 2/4/5/12 LTE.
For an unlocked One A9, HTC proactively has addressed the to/from Sprint provider switch issue by including that in its one time courtesy UH OH Protection program:
In other words, want to switch from Sprint to AT&T, T-Mobile, or VZW with your unlocked One A9? HTC will swap out for the other domestic variant. Want to switch from AT&T, T-Mobile, or VZW to Sprint with your unlocked One A9? HTC will swap out for the Sprint variant. While on the subject of the AT&T, T-Mobile, and VZW variant, it is 3GPP only, thus VoLTE only for voice on VZW. HTC even acknowledges that fact:
The other domestic variant has some further relevance as we delve into the FCC authorized lab tested ERP/EIRP performance of the Sprint variant.
The FCC OET documents, per usual, do not disclose an antenna diagram. But they do note that the One A9 uses a dual antenna system -- antenna 0 and antenna 1, presumably top and bottom or vice versa. The handset will switch between the antennas at will based upon varying signal metrics. Much like Apple with the iPhone, HTC has implemented this dual antenna setup since the debut of the One M7 in 2013. In this case, however, the dual antennas are still single radio path, so SVLTE is not supported.
Now, for the main attraction, let us look at the Sprint variant One A9 radiated power figures. I may sound like a broken record, but the usual clauses about lab testing versus real world performance and uplink versus downlink always apply. The figures represent my best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink ERP/EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET in the authorization filings for the device. See below:
Band Class 0: 17 dBm
Band Class 1: 22 dBm
Band Class 10: 18 dBm
Band 2: 16-19 dBm
Band 4: 13-16 dBm
Band 5: 14-16 dBm
Band 12: 14 dBm
Band 25: 17-19 dBm
Band 26: 16-17 dBm
Band 41: 21-22 dBm
The CDMA2000 performance is good, about average. And the band 41 output is along the same lines. That is about the best S4GRU can say regarding the tested results of the One A9. It does not quite hit the lows of the VZW variant Samsung Galaxy Note 3 -- the most anemic RF test results that S4GRU has ever seen in any notable handset -- but the One A9 is not far off. The band 4 output that maxes out as low as 13 dBm, for example, is very weak. It is mid band spectrum that needs greater EIRP. The positive is that band 4 roaming never may be a factor with this handset. And band 2/25 is a bit better, though still at least 4-5 dB below the desired level.
Now, back to the other domestic variant headed to AT&T, T-Mobile, and VZW. The picture does not get much rosier. Comparing the 3GPP bands in common, the other domestic variant is superior by 2-7 dB in band 2, 6-9 dB in band 4, 2-4 dB in band 5, and 2 dB in band 12. Wow, those are big differences nearly across the board. The Sprint variant does get one minor victory -- it is 1-2 dB better in band 41 than the other domestic variant is in band 7, as both band 41 and band 7 operate in the same BRS/EBS 2600 MHz spectrum.
What happened, HTC? The Sprint variant seems to have gotten shortchanged. Was that a compromise to optimize band 41 by 1-2 dB? We can hope for better returns in real world performance. But early returns from lab tested performance are not good.
Sources: FCC, HTC, Qualcomm
by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Monday, September 28, 2015 - 10:40 AM MDT
Update: Now that Google has released the full tech specs for the Nexus 6P, we can write a few addenda. While the FCC OET authorization filings disclosed support for several GSM, W-CDMA, and LTE international bands -- something that they are not required to do -- they curiously omitted W-CDMA band 8, which is the GSM 900 MHz band. Add that one to the W-CDMA list. Additionally, we can confirm that the Nexus 6P will require a 4FF nano SIM. For Sprint activation, will it be a USIM or a CSIM? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
Late last Friday afternoon, the LG manufactured Google Nexus 5X made its debut in the FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) authorization database. S4GRU staffers quickly got down to work and broke the story with RF analysis that very evening.
Following hot on the heels of its smaller sibling, the Huawei manufactured Google Nexus 6P made a bright and early morning FCC OET appearance today. S4GRU was on the case right away. So, let us dive right in to the RF nitty gritty.
The Nexus 6P band support currently covers all major domestic operators -- VZW, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, USCC, C Spire, etc. It even future proofs itself for AT&T usage to an extent by including nascent band 30 (WCS 2300 MHz), a band not present in the Nexus 5X.
Moreover, it includes some notable international bands, which the authorization filing discloses. (Most FCC OET filings do not disclose international bands, as they are not required to be tested for US authorization.) For example, W-CDMA band 1 (IMT 1900+2100 MHz) is the primary W-CDMA band worldwide, and LTE band 3 (DCS 1800 MHz) is an emerging LTE band in many international markets.
For your perusal, the many bands/classes...
W-CDMA band 1/2/4/5
CDMA2000 band class 0/1/10
LTE band 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29(Rx only)/30/41
From a physical standpoint, the Nexus 6P incorporates a dual antenna system. All LTE handsets that support 2x2 downlink MIMO must have at least two Rx antennas. But the Nexus 6P also utilizes a dynamic antenna capability on uplink Tx, switching between the two antennas at will, depending upon handset orientation and signal conditions.
Interestingly, though, the dynamic antenna Tx capability is limited to low band spectrum. Only bands/classes below 1 GHz are supported. Lastly, in another twist, the Nexus 6P authorization filings did include an antenna diagram -- something that has become increasingly rare due to cited confidentiality concerns. On the other hand, the antenna gain figures were not apparent anywhere in the filing. For the diagram, see below:
In keeping with most of this year's handsets based on the Snapdragon 808 or 810 -- both of which incorporate on die the Snapdragon X10 LTE modem -- the Nexus 6P supports 2x carrier aggregation on the downlink in both intra band and inter band configurations. In the case of inter band 2x CA, either band can be operated as the PCC (primary) or SCC (secondary).
2x CA downlink bands:
To wrap things up, let us examine the LTE band RF output. The usual provisos about lab testing versus real world performance and uplink versus downlink apply. The figures represent my best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink ERP/EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET in the authorization filings for the device.
Overall, the ERP/EIRP figures are fairly consistent within each band and across all bands. In terms of tested performance relative to other handsets, the measurements are roughly average. The P in Nexus 6P is not for RF "powerhouse," but it certainly could stand for "proficient." Compared to the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6P has a 2-3 dB tested advantage in high band, while the Nexus 5X has a 2-3 dB lead across most of the mid and low band.
Band 2: 21-22 dBm
Band 4: 21-23 dBm
Band 5: 18-19 dBm
Band 7: 21-23 dBm
Band 12: 17-18 dBm
Band 13: 17-18 dBm
Band 17: 17-18 dBm
Band 25: 21-22 dBm
Band 26: 18-19 dBm
Band 30: 20-21 dBm
Band 41: 21-22 dBm
by Tim Yu
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, September 25, 2015 - 5:44 PM MDT
Update 2: S4GRU's technical editor here again. It is Monday, October 19, and today is the day. Many of the Nexus 5X first preorders started shipping this morning for delivery later this week. You also may have caught the Nexus 5X television commercial that Google ran multiple times during the NFL broadcasts yesterday.
In light of the first handsets shipping today, S4GRU wants to publish a second update to this article, confirming the correct Sprint SIM card and covering fully the tested FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) ERP/EIRP RF figures, which recently received a Class II Permissive Change filing.
As we speculated a few weeks ago, the correct Sprint SIM for the Nexus 5X is the same 4FF nano SIM as for the 2015 Moto X aka Style aka Pure Edition. It is the latest version Sprint CSIM, so network activation for both LTE and CDMA2000 will be via the SIM. The SIM can acquired for free at a Sprint corporate store with repair center or from Sprint International support online chat. As unlocked, third party handsets are still somewhat rarities on Sprint, some S4GRU users have reported difficulties in obtaining the correct SIM from those official Sprint channels. Your mileage may vary. If you prefer to purchase the correct SIM yourself, you typically can do so at Best Buy Mobile. More detailed info about SIM procurement is available in our newly opened Nexus 5X user thread.
In our original publication of this article almost a month ago, I included a sidebar with some brief discussion of RF power output. It hit just the highlights. As the Nexus 5 still to this day has been known for its solid RF performance on the Sprint network, S4GRU wanted to do a full LTE ERP/EIRP rundown of its Nexus 5X younger sibling in this update. This is especially true in light of the aforementioned Class II filing -- disclosing some "Antenna/PCB adjustments" to the Nexus 5X -- subsequent to the original filing and our original publication. Interestingly, none of the peak antenna gain figures have changed, but perhaps small tweaks below the peak gain or in the body of the handset appear to have affected ERP/EIRP slightly.
For easy readability, I have put together a table to compare ERP/EIRP and antenna gain across the original filing and the Class II filing. See below:
All of the usual disclaimers about lab testing versus real world performance and uplink versus downlink apply. The figures represent my best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink ERP/EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET in the authorization filings for the device.
My previous RF analysis in the originally published article below stands. The Nexus 5X is relatively powerful in low and mid band spectrum, in which we like to see at least 17-18 dBm and 22-23 dBm, respectively. But it is not quite as powerful as we would hope in high band spectrum, which ideally should be 23 dBm or greater. However, the physical changes that warranted the Class II filing do appear to have reduced low and mid band output by a subtle degree -- possibly in exchange for higher and more consistent output in band 41. The RF figures seem to suggest that.
To conclude, if you have ordered the Nexus 5X, watch your mailboxes and doorsteps this week. In the meantime, you can watch the Nexus 5X television commercial on YouTube.
Update: S4GRU's technical editor here. We now have the full Nexus 5X tech specs released from Google, thus can comment on a few issues not disclosed in the FCC OET authorization filings last week. Namely, international band support and SIM card form factor. In addition to the tested domestic bands listed below, the Nexus 5X also supports the following international bands:
W-CDMA band 1/8
LTE band 1/3/20
For those unfamiliar, band 1 is IMT 1900+2100 MHz, band 3 is DCS 1800 MHz, band 8 is GSM 900 MHz (or what SoftBank calls the "Platinum Band"), and band 20 is EU Digital Dividend 800 MHz. With those band capabilities, the Nexus 5X will be usable on LTE, W-CDMA, or at least GSM in almost every country on the planet -- though that may require a local SIM card.
Speaking of SIM cards -- which are technically UICC now, but most still call them the colloquial SIM -- the Nexus 5X as expected has a 4FF nano SIM slot. Your 3FF micro SIM from the Nexus 5, for example, will not fit. From a Sprint perspective, since S4GRU is primarily a Sprint focused educational site, this does raise another issue. USIM vs CSIM. For activation and network authentication, USIM is 3GPP only (i.e. LTE/W-CDMA/GSM), while CSIM also incorporates 3GPP2 (i.e. CDMA2000). So, on Sprint, a handset that requires a USIM needs a separate CDMA2000 activation process, but a handset that requires a CSIM activates both LTE and CDMA2000 via the SIM.
At this point, we do not have any info from LG, Google, or Sprint whether the Nexus 5X will require a USIM or CSIM for activation on Sprint. My educated guess is a CSIM -- just like the 2015 Moto X aka Style aka Pure Edition a few weeks ago. But that remains to be seen. Expect some uncertainty for the first few days, but rest assured, it will all get sorted out shortly. And S4GRU will be here to provide information as it emerges. If warranted, we may write another update to this article. You also can follow along in The Forums in our Nexus 5X thread.
Two years ago, on a September day forever historic for S4GRU, we discovered and announced to the world the then unrevealed 2013 LG Nexus 5, as its FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) authorization documents made a surprise reappearance, and we noted that the backplate photos included in the filings matched up remarkably well with recent images of a mystery device being used at Google. Indeed, we proved to be right about the LG-D820 and got a nice scoop on the rest of the tech press.
Today, S4GRU comes forth to herald what appears to be the long anticipated successor to the 2013 Nexus 5. The authorization filings for the LG-H790 have been uploaded late today in the FCC OET database. For the write up on the Nexus 6P, click here.
Overall (Length x Width): 146.9 mm x 72.5 mm
Overall Diagonal 159 mm
Display Diagonal: 133 mm
Supported Domestic Airlink Technologies:
GSM 850 / 1900
W-CDMA Band 2 / 4 / 5
CDMA2000 Band Class 0 / 1 / 10
LTE Band 2 / 4 / 5 / 7 / 12 / 13 / 17 / 25 / 26 / 29 (Rx only) / 41
A Category 6 UE with support for 2x carrier aggregation on the downlink.
And the supported Carrier Aggregation profiles are as listed (Band #+Band #):
Carrier aggregation on Verizon? Check.
Carrier Aggregation on ATT? Check.
Carrier Aggregation on T-Mobile? Check.
Carrier Aggregation on Sprint? Yup!
To follow up with some brief RF analysis, let us bring in S4GRU's technical editor...
This expected Nexus 5X is clearly tuned for low and mid band spectrum. That would be primarily Cellular 850 MHz, SMR 800 MHz, PCS 1900 MHz, and AWS-1 1700+2100 MHz. For Sprint purposes, only PCS and SMR are relevant, comprising the CDMA2000 band classes 1 and 10, the LTE bands 25 and 26, respectively. Since LTE is the going concern, know that band 25 maximum EIRP at 26 dBm is excellent, the same for band 26 maximum ERP at 23 dBm.
Unfortunately, high band spectrum does not fare quite as well. The high band antenna covering BRS/EBS 2600 MHz spectrum has a disappointingly low gain of -2.6 dBi. And that seems to be reflected in the band 41 maximum EIRP of 19 dBm, which is low to average, at best.
As this almost obviously is the Nexus 5X -- that we know will be a very interesting device to our readership -- we may do a complete RF testing analysis article down the road. But S4GRU wanted to get the highlights out to everyone right away.
With Google's September 29 reveal event just four days away, this FCC OET authorization comes right on time. The recent Amazon India leak of the Nexus 5X indicated an identification of LG-H791, and now we have an LG-H790. The 2013 Nexus 5 North American variant was LG-D820 and international model was LG-D821, so the number correlation is there.
Should S4GRU be 5X certain that the LG-H790 is the 2015 Nexus 5X? Our track record on these matters is established. But we will let you decide...
by Josh McDaniel
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, September 11, 2015 - 9:45 AM MDT
As most of nearly the entire world is aware, Apple announced the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and a number of other devices earlier this week. Most notably, iPhone 6S/6S Plus debuts 3D Touch, which is an enhanced version of Force Touch on Apple Watch. However, for most S4GRU readers here, there was one burning question that was not answered in the keynote.
As iPhone models have progressed on Sprint from the iPhone 5 in 2012 with Band 25 LTE to the iPhone 5S in 2013 with dual Band 25/26 LTE to the iPhone 6 in 2014 with Triband 25/26/41 LTE, Apple has oft been half to a full generation behind in supporting the latest Network Vision enhancements.
Last year's iPhone 6, for example, did feature the inclusion of Band 41 LTE but not quite full compatibility with CCA/RRPP bands. And Band 41 LTE 2x CA on Android handsets was just a few months around the corner. Well, this year's iPhone 6S includes Band 12 LTE for full CCA/RRPP support and Band 41 LTE 2x CA on Sprint! Now the latest iPhone is fully up to date with all Sprint bands and current technology initiatives that are currently released.
Notable Specs & Sprint Interband 2x Carrier Aggregation
Yes, that's right, iPhone users now get to enjoy 2x Carrier Aggregation on the Sprint network! This will lead to a doubling in B41 performance in Sprint Spark markets that have CA deployed. Up to 150Mbps in the most ideal signal and network conditions.
All you wireless enthusiasts who want to know about radio performance, read further for RF testing information. The rest of the notable specs on the new phones are listed below:
2 GB RAM (just like iPad Air 2)
12 MP iSight (rear) camera with 4K video recording
5 MP FaceTime camera with Retina Flash and 720p video recording
7000 Series aluminum body
Rose Gold color option
Only 1/10 of a cm taller, wider, and thicker than last year's iPhone 6/6 Plus
And now for an RF testing sidebar from S4GRU's technical editor...
As always, the usual caveats about lab testing versus real world performance and uplink versus downlink apply. The figures represent my best averaged and rounded estimates of maximum uplink ERP/EIRP test results provided to the FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) in the authorization filings for the device(s).
These ERP/EIRP figures are specific to the A1688 and A1687 models, which are the Qualcomm Snapdragon X7 LTE (MDM9635) Category 6 and CDMA2000 equipped iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, respectively. Separate Band 30 enabled models exist for AT&T, and while those models are disclosed to use the same antenna arrays, they were RF tested separately in the authorization filings, thus may possess different ERP/EIRP figures. So, this data and analysis should not be extrapolated to cover any other iPhone 6S models.
Since this article covers two different iPhone 6S models with two different antennas each, I have put together a table for easier viewing and comparison. (Click to Enlarge)
To provide further analysis, the green shaded cells represent the maximum figures for each LTE band across both handsets and both antennas. As we can see, the LAT -- with one or two possibly anomalous exceptions -- is the primary antenna on both handsets, possessing greater maximum ERP/EIRP and/or higher maximum antenna gain.
Both iPhone 6S sizes look to be at least good to possibly great LTE performers -- especially in their high band output. For the uninitiated, 30 dBm equals a full 1 W. Mid band is good, and low band is at least average. Hopefully, this expected solid LTE performance plays out in the real world and is not compromised by carrier bundle firmware, as some S4GRU users have reported previously.
For a comparison of the two sizes, bigger, apparently, is not always better for RF. Somewhat of a surprise, the smaller iPhone 6S is the superior RF performer of the two. It generally has greater maximum ERP/EIRP and higher antenna gain -- as evidenced by the greater number of green shaded cells. Moreover, the LAT to UAT consistency is much better on the iPhone 6S, with relatively less drop off between the two antennas and always higher UAT maximum ERP/EIRP than that of the iPhone 6S Plus. This means the RF "death grip" loss on the iPhone 6S could be much smaller when it has to shift between LAT and UAT.
And now for the best part, you could win a new iPhone 6S...
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by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:28 AM MDT
Ladies and gentlemen, C Spire has left the building. In Memphis. Or so it seems.
Based on an FCC spectrum lease filing that came down the pike earlier this week, Cellular South dba C Spire has applied to lease all of its spectrum in Memphis to Sprint. S4GRU has not been able to confirm yet, but this almost certainly appears to signal a C Spire exit from Memphis -- its largest urban market into which it expanded just a few years ago.
Disclaimer: the FCC ULS (Universal Licensing System) -- which is the parent database for all spectrum licenses and applications and is what I access directly to do spectrum research -- is down for a server migration over the Labor Day holiday weekend, not back online until sometime next week. In fact, the FCC ULS went offline right in the midst of my research a night ago. Fortunately, I was able to gather the relevant info on the Memphis spectrum to be leased to Sprint. However, the entirety of the transaction also involves Sprint leasing spectrum elsewhere back to C Spire -- more on that later. As more information becomes available, we will publish an update or a follow up, if warranted.
In Memphis, the spectrum to be leased to Sprint is the PCS 1900 MHz C2 block 15 MHz (7.5 MHz FDD) and Lower 700 MHz A block 12 MHz (6 MHz FDD) licenses. From a CDMA2000 standpoint, the PCS would be band class 1 spectrum; the Lower 700 MHz is irrelevant for CDMA2000. For LTE, the PCS would be band 2 or band 25 spectrum, which Sprint would utilize as band 25, and the Lower 700 MHz would be band 12, which Sprint has not held in any other market. That last piece is a key point -- more on that later, too.
At this point, S4GRU cannot definitively comment on C Spire's motivation to leave its largest market -- if that indeed is what is happening. Albeit, similar regional operator USCC faced struggles with expansion into Chicago and St. Louis, eventually closing down those markets and selling off spectrum to Sprint. Likely, that is what is happening in Memphis.
Along possibly related lines, USCC faced spectrum constraints with launching LTE in Chicago and St. Louis, potentially rendering them dead end markets in the current LTE focused environment. From Spectrum Gateway's interactive map, we can see that UHF channel 51 presently conflicts with Lower 700 MHz A block deployment in Memphis. With its Lower 700 MHz A block license encumbered and decent but not large PCS spectrum holdings in Memphis, C Spire likely faced a difficult road to LTE there.
S4GRU may try to seek official comment from C Spire on this matter. Presumably, though, C Spire will address the Memphis issue in the coming days, providing some clarity on the matter. If C Spire is truly exiting the Memphis market, it will have to notify its existing subscribers.
All of that ambiguity aside, Sprint's motivation is clearly understandable. After the USCC transaction in Chicago and the Revol transaction in Cleveland and Indianapolis, Memphis is one of the last few top markets where Sprint holds only 20 MHz total of PCS A-F block spectrum -- even more dire, that 20 MHz in Memphis is broken up into two non contiguous 10 MHz (5 MHz FDD) blocks. Though a minimal amount of info has changed in the intervening years or decades since I did the pro bono work, you can view some of my Sprint spectrum documentation, including Memphis, in this spreadsheet, this map, and this spreadsheet.
What that means presently for Sprint in Memphis is additional guard bands are required because of the interrupted spectrum blocks and no chance of LTE carrier bandwidth greater than 5 MHz FDD, nor any band 25 second carrier until after significant CDMA2000 thinning or shutdown. But this spectrum from C Spire changes everything.
At the very least, Sprint will have increased its PCS A-F block Memphis spectrum holdings from just two non contiguous 10 MHz (5 MHz FDD) blocks to those two blocks plus another non contiguous 15 MHz (7.5 MHz FDD) block. A band 25 second carrier in Memphis is coming down the river.
However, what I think -- and what other S4GRU staff members have independently concurred -- is that Sprint will swap this C Spire spectrum with AT&T.
First, the spectrum lease application with C Spire is for a long term, de facto transfer lease. We could be wrong, but this lease smacks of a prelude to a full sale of C Spire spectrum licenses in Memphis to Sprint. In that case, Sprint would have options to rearrange its position in the PCS band plan. Primarily, both Sprint and AT&T would be advantaged to swap their PCS C1 and PCS C2 blocks for greater contiguity for both parties. Continue reading.
Just as S4GRU documented in the Columbus, OH market a month ago, the PCS G block LTE 5 MHz FDD carrier probably would be redeployed as a 10 MHz FDD carrier bridged across portions of the PCS C block and PCS G block. That still would leave room in the potentially acquired spectrum for up to two additional CDMA2000 carriers, which would replace two of the three CDMA2000 carriers lost in the PCS D block or PCS B5 block, one of which would be refarmed for an LTE 5 MHz FDD carrier to ensure continued LTE access to any early band 25 devices that do not support LTE in anything but 5 MHz FDD -- the same process that we saw in Columbus.
For illustration of the present, post transaction, and possible PCS spectrum future in Memphis, see this S4GRU graphic:
Other possibilities exist for Sprint and AT&T spectrum "horse trading" in Memphis -- such as Sprint getting the AT&T PCS F block in exchange for effectively returning to AT&T the PCS B5 disaggregation that Sprint acquired from AT&T predecessor AT&TWS in a spectrum transaction over a decade ago. But those other spectrum transaction possibilities would be more disruptive to current service, so I and other S4GRU staff do not think those band plan rearrangements likely in the near future.
To start to wrap matters up for now -- but probably to be continued later -- that Memphis BEA Lower 700 MHz A block is the proverbial elephant in the room. As noted earlier, that is band 12 spectrum. And Sprint now has plenty of band 12 compatible devices previously released, currently available, or upcoming. Indeed, band 12 is part of the CCA/RRPP device procurement plan.
However, we do not expect Sprint to deploy band 12 in Memphis. The Lower 700 MHz A block is not immediately compatible with Sprint's Network Vision infrastructure, and it is currently encumbered by adjacent UHF broadcasting. If, as S4GRU expects, a full spectrum transfer ultimately results from this Memphis spectrum lease, then look for Sprint to flip the Lower 700 MHz A block license to T-Mobile, which has shown its motivation and money to get UHF channel 51 broadcasters relocated -- or paid to accept some adjacent channel interference.
As an exchange for that low band spectrum -- which T-Mobile has now started to value so greatly -- Sprint could gain some of the excess T-Mobile-Metro PCS spectrum that S4GRU pointed out almost three years ago, shoring up Sprint's PCS A-F block 20 MHz holdings in the likes of important markets San Francisco, Atlanta, or Miami.
To return to and conclude with C Spire, our article starter, we cannot precisely document what SMR 800 MHz, PCS 1900 MHz, and/or BRS/EBS 2600 MHz spectrum C Spire will lease from Sprint. Because the FCC ULS frustratingly is out of commission for several more days. Cursory examination when the leases were still accessible online, though, did not indicate any major markets. Rather, this could be tied in with a CCA/RRPP agreement to expand Sprint coverage -- since C Spire infrastructure and handsets typically do not support band 26 nor band 41.
So, the real prize in this transaction is spectrum in Memphis. My apologies to Marc Cohn for ham handedly paraphrasing his 1990s ballad, but it is also all too fitting…in those blue suede shoes...
Leasing in Memphis -- leasing in Memphis
Sprint's getting PCS on and off of Beale
Leasing in Memphis -- leasing in Memphis
How does that really make you feel?
Sources: FCC, Marc Cohn
Not when Verizon just bought 1GHz of mmwave spectrum. Those were the policies of the past. If it does not get approved, it would the loss of jobs and the fact that it might not be good for consumers. Although when I look at the table on this page, comparing unlimited plans, it is already evident that the other three are not really competing and Sprint's lower prices are not working since they did not manage to steal anybody from the other other three. To me it is evident that were Sprint to remain independent they need massive investment in their network since competing on price is not enough anymore and low prices just deprive their network of investment.