by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 5:09 PM MDT
I hear from yous guys all the time, so I know that the Big Apple is ready to take a big bite out of the upcoming Sprint LTE network. So it is with great joy, that the next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is...New York City. This market has not been announced by Sprint, but appears to be on the way for a November/December launch.
The Sprint NYC market covers all of the New York Boroughs, up into Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley up through Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent has been actively deploying in the New York City market since April and is making good progress. As of this week, there are approximately 30 Network Vision sites that have completed upgrades. These sites are located throughout the market.
Network Vision Sites in the New York City market. Approximately thirty 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 New York, 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 NYC market, it would make the launch month to be as late as January (should AlcaLu stay on schedule). That being said, if Sprint should launch some time in November (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 November, 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 NYC market as currently broadcasting 4G LTE, only 3G EVDO. According to the NV schedule, these should have started coming online in June 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.
The bottom line...
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the New York City market. We believe they are targeting a launch month of October based on reports internally within Sprint. However, after reviewing the schedule, we don't see how they could launch before November unless the market deployment speeds up faster than scheduled, or they lower the percentage for launch to be less than 40%. We will be listening closely when Sprint announces the next round of market launch projections to see if they include New York, or even if they so boldly announce a date.
Sprint's schedule for this market currently has 31 Network Vision sites complete. Alcatel/Lucent is continuing to progress and is planning to increase the production rate up to 90 sites per month from here forward. This seems like a very high rate, but plausible with the right resources allocated to the job.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by May 2013. However, there are several sites that will linger past the completion. In our estimation of the schedule, AlcaLu is currently a little behind schedule, but can recover if they start increasing production to 20+ sites per week in July.
Photo of Manhattan provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.