by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 12:00 PM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is...the City of Angels. Los Angeles, a.k.a. "L.A." The LA Metro market has not been announced by Sprint, but appears to be on the way for a September launch.
The Sprint LA Metro market covers all of Los Angeles County. Adjacent counties are in different Sprint markets. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent has been actively deploying in Los Angeles since March and is making good progress. As of this week, there are approximately 65 Network Vision sites that have completed upgrades. These sites are located throughout the market. Mostly in the SF Valley, Los Angeles Basin and the I-110 Harbor Freeway Corridor.
Network Vision Sites in the LA Metro market. Approximately 65 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 LA, 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 LA Metro market, it would make the launch month to be October (should AlcaLu stay on schedule). That being said, if Sprint should launch in September (as we suspect), then the market would be less than 50% complete. 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 LA 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 backlog of LTE sites will probably come online in this market suddenly when the network is ready.
The bottom line...
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the LA Metro market. We believe they are targeting a launch month of September based on reports internally within Sprint. They will likely announce a launch date for this market, and a few others like Austin, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC around the time of the first market launches.
Sprint's schedule for this market currently has 65 Network Vision sites complete. Alcatel/Lucent is continuing to progress and is planning to increase the production rate up to 110 sites per month from here forward. This seems like a very difficult rate of completion to achieve.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by February 2013. However, there are several sites that will linger past the completion. In our estimation of the schedule, AlcaLu is currently pretty much on time, but may have issues meeting this rate identified in Sprint's schedule.
Photo of Downtown Los Angeles provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.