by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 6:00 AM MDT
Chicago. Network Vision is nearly infamous among Chicagoans. Chicago has not been an easy market for Sprint so far. We reported in a previous article about some of the challenges Sprint has faced in its Windy City deployment. Even though this market has yet to be announced by Sprint, we are happy to report to you that Chicago appears to be on track for a September launch.
The Sprint Chicago market covers most of Northern Illinois and the adjacent suburbs of NW Indiana. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Samsung has been actively deploying in the Chicago market since December and is making good progress. As of this week, there are over 300 Network Vision sites that have completed upgrades. These sites are located throughout the market. But all outside the Loop.
Network Vision Sites in the Chicago market. More than 300 Network Vision sites are complete in the market.
Market Launch and Remaining Schedule
It was Sprint's original plan to launch markets when they reached 50% of sites converted to Network Vision. However, it has now been determined that Sprint will move up launches sooner than 50% completion in several markets. This is likely to maintain a Mid 2012 launch in markets that have already been announced. However, in an unannounced market like Chicago, we don't know if they will resume pushing back market launches to 50%, or if they will now settle on a 30% - 40% completion to be the new normal for market launches.
If Sprint waits for 50% completion to launch the Chicago market, September would be the launch month should Samsung stay on schedule. It is believed that Sprint will launch the market earlier, with less than 50% coverage. This doesn't sound like enough, but it would provide pretty good coverage. Even Verizon doesn't launch on all sites in a market initially. Usually less than 50%, then filling in with more and more sites every few months.
Anticipated Sites Complete at Market Launch. According to the Network Vision schedules that S4GRU has reviewed, if Sprint launched the market in September, these are the anticipated sites that would likely have LTE complete at that time. This would provide fairly good LTE coverage over many parts of the market.
Sprint is not reporting any of these live Network Vision sites in the Chicago market as currently broadcasting 4G LTE, only 3G EVDO. According to the NV schedule, these should have started coming online in May with LTE. However, none have shown up as LTE active to date. This most likely means that either the backhaul is not quite ready to service 4G LTE, or the 4G cores that these sites are tied to are not quite ready for LTE traffic. A huge backlog of LTE sites will probably come online in this market suddenly when the network is ready.
We are getting reports though of S4GRU members in the Chicago area, especially in the Merrillville and Hammond areas, who have been able to connect to 4G LTE for brief intermittent periods. So there are sites that are starting to get LTE capabilities working. They just have not been turned over to Sprint yet from Samsung.
The bottom line...
We currently do not have the formal "launch" date for the Chicago market. We believe they are targeting a launch month of September based on reports internally within Sprint. After reviewing the schedule, we can see a path to get there. Sprint will likely announce a launch date for this market, and a few others like Austin, Boston, Washington DC and Los Angeles around the time of the first launch.
Sprint's schedule for this market currently has 307 Network Vision sites complete, which is almost one third. Samsung is progressing very well. It appears that Sprint and Samsung are speeding up the schedule, as it looks like they are now ahead of schedule in this market.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by December 2012. However, there are a few sites that will likely linger past the completion. In our estimation of the schedule, Samsung should have no issues meeting Sprint's schedule completion date.
Photo of Chicago skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.