Last month, Sprint announced that Network Vision and LTE Deployment is under way in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Sprint 4G Rollout Updates can confirm that Network Vision and LTE Deployment is well underway in Chicago also. As well as a few communities in Northeast Iowa.
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates was able to receive information from internal Sprint documents that have not been released to the public. Unfortunately, the documentation will not be released here at the request of the source.
The fact that Sprint is actively deploying Network Vision and LTE in Chicago isn’t a complete surprise. Sprint 4G Rollout Updates announced this on October 28th when a Samsung VP let the cat out of the bag that they were beginning LTE deployment that day in Chicago for Sprint. But we stood amazed when Dan Hesse announced the first four LTE cities last month and did not mention Chicago. What gives, I remembered thinking.
Network Vision/LTE being deployed in Chicago in clusters
We can confirm that Samsung is indeed actively working throughout Chicagoland on Network Vision and LTE Deployment, as well as many things in preparation. Network Vision is occurring in the Greater Chicago area in clusters, instead of one citywide deployment. This could be the reason why Chicago has not been announced with the other cities, as the deployment may not be totally complete in the whole area for some time.
One of the issues in Chicago for Sprint is new fiber optic backhaul. CenturyLink is providing a new OC-48 fiber optic link for Sprint Network Vision cell sites. This fiber optic link is anticipated in Mid-February. After this is in place, many DS-3 subfeeds to the cell sites will need to be placed, and this will take another 60 days to complete. In some places the enhanced backhaul may arrive before Samsung overhauls the cell site with Network Vision, in other places afterwards. At sites where the backhaul arrives before Samsung, the enhanced backhaul may stay there unused until the site is overhauled.
Even as Network Vision is underway, additional capacity is still being added
Even though Sprint is actively working to bring enhanced backhaul to cell sites in Chicago, they are still deploying additional T1 backhaul to augment existing sites to help improve performance prior to Network Vision rework. Some orders for T1’s placed for other sites that are performing acceptably may be reallocated to underperforming locations. Significant performance improvements should be noticed in February as T1 lines that have been backordered for months will start occurring en masse. A large focus of capacity adds are in the Loop Area.
Other things noted in the documents include, 3G-EVDO performance has improved where additional carrier and backhaul upgrades have been recently completed. However, some problem areas still exist and will not be fixed when the sites in the area are converted to Network Vision. Chicago is a Capacity Constrained Market for Sprint. Nearly 50% of all the Sprint cell sites in the Chicago area have carrier deployment exhausting all the available licensed spectrum.
More specifically, many locations in Downtown Chicago, Aurora, Elgin and Des Plaines will likely require additional cell site deployments in order to increase performance. There are too many users in these cells to accommodate with additional carriers and backhaul alone. Smaller cells will be the only solution in these areas. The Downtown Loop is specifically highly strained due to its density. In the Loop, not only will additional cells be required, but Sprint has also identified 5 locations to deploy Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to increase capacity.
Sprint deploying several things to relieve data burden, including forced WiMax offload
Other items Sprint is pursuing to help alleviate data speed and performance issues in Chicago are commercial Femtocells, WiFi and forced WiMax data offload. Femtocells are being deployed at Willis Tower for United Airlines. Each Femtocell will accommodate up to 200 users, but can only hand off to the external macro Sprint network. They can cannot ‘hand-in’, so to speak. Sprint is working with Cisco on deploying WiFi in several key identified locations.
However, the most notable solution that Sprint is looking to employ is forced WiMax offload. In Sprint devices that have WiMax capability, Sprint may force the devices to run in 4G WiMax mode. The details of how they would do it were not disclosed. Would they push a device update that would give them this capability? The forced WiMax offload would only occur when the device tries to use data. Presumably the devices would stay in a WiMax hibernation state until needed.
For you Sprint customers in Chicago, the Cavalry is coming. It may be late, in many respects, but it is going to be thorough and comprehensive. Sprint isn’t just throwing up Network Vision on every tower and hopes it fixes the experience for its customers. Sprint is actively throwing everything it has to improve its network. And all these different solutions are what it’s going to take. Stay tuned!
EDITED 3/5/2012: To include market map.
EDITED 5/4/2012: Strike out of NE Iowa communities. When this first draft of this article was written, it did not include any info about Northeast Iowa. It was only about the Chicago market based on documents we seen.
However, just prior to publishing, we were contacted by a source about Network Vision equipment deliveries that were occurring in several communities in NE Iowa and St. Cloud, Minnesota. At that time, not knowing as much about NV deployment as we do now, S4GRU made the assumption that Network Vision was beginning in those markets and chose to add NE Iowa to the article. We have since learned that NV Equipment deliveries (especially by Samsung) are happening far, far in advance in many locations. NV Equipment deliveries have very little bearing on the actual NV schedule.
Also since the date this article was published we have seen national NV schedules and local NV schedules. We know definitively that even though equipment has landed in NE Iowa for Samsung to use in the future, NV has not begun in that market (to date). Planning, permitting and design are not even complete in that area. There will likely not be any NV deployment in any of the Iowa markets until 2013. Minnesota will start sooner, though.
This point is one of the reasons why we no longer publish anything anymore based upon verbal communication, but only on things we see ourselves. Sorry for the confusion and disappointment this causes. S4GRU is committed to bringing you the most accurate information. I hope you appreciate the fact that we correct and update our articles when we learn of more accurate info. Thanks.