by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 12:06 PM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is...Charlotte. The Charlotte market has yet to be announced by Sprint, but is expected to be announced in the near future. Perhaps around the time of the first market launches.
The Sprint Charlotte market encompasses all of the Sprint native coverage in western North Carolina. This includes the Charlotte Metro area, Kannapolis, Concord, Salisbury, Gastonia, Hickory, Boone and all the way over to Asheville. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent is scheduled to begin mobilizing in this area with its subcontractors any time now. Completed Network Vision sites should start coming online before the end of July.
Charlotte Market Launch
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 Charlotte, we don't know if they will resume pushing back market launches to 50%, or if they will now settle on a 40% completion to be the new normal for market launches.
If Sprint waits for 50% completion to launch the Charlotte market, it would make the launch month to be November (should the OEM stay on schedule). If they plan on a 40% market completion for launch, that would be October. You may think that 40% - 50% site completion is not enough to launch LTE service, 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 October, 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.
Schedule details and the bottom line
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the Charlotte market. It is difficult to try to pick a date now this far out. And we know Sprint won't want to do that. But we will take a stab at it. In looking at the schedule as of today, it would indicate an October or November market launch (going on a 40% - 50% completion for launch). But there is no way to know if Alcatel/Lucent and their subcontractors will actually hit their schedule dates this early in the deployment for this market. We will be able to gauge better after a few months of production.
AlcaLu will only need to hit a production rate of 50 sites per month to stay on schedule. This appears to us to be an achievable rate. If properly prepared and equipped and if backhaul is ready timely, this market shouldn't have problems staying on time. But this is easy to say before they get started.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by March 2013. However, there may be a few sporadic sites that will linger past the completion.
Photo of Charlotte Airport provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.