by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 6:00 AM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is The River City...Memphis. The Memphis 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 Memphis market encompasses all of the Sprint native coverage in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and NE Arkansas. This includes the Memphis metropolitan area, Jackson, Dyersburg, Tupelo, Mississippi's Golden Triangle (Columbus, Starkville, West Point), Greenwood and Jonesboro in Arkansas. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Ericsson is scheduled to begin mobilizing in this area with its subcontractors in early August. Completed Network Vision sites should start coming online in September.
Memphis 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 Memphis, 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 Memphis market, it would make the launch month to be December (should the OEM stay on schedule). If they plan on a 40% market completion for launch, that would be November. 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 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. Some sites will are scheduled to be live in Jackson, Dyersburg and Jonesboro at the time. However, Mississippi sites won't start until early 2013.
Schedule details and the bottom line
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the Memphis 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 a November market launch (going on a 40% - 50% completion for launch). But there is no way to know if Ericsson 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.
Ericsson will only need to hit a production rate of 40 sites per month to stay on schedule. This should be an easy to achieve 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 February 2013. However, there may be a few sporadic sites that will linger past the completion.
Photo of Memphis provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.