by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Sunday, July 1, 2012 - 12:56 PM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is the City of Brotherly Love...Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Metro 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 Philly market encompasses all of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Including the Philly Metro area, up toward the Lehigh Valley (Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton) and over toward Reading and Pottstown. In does not include the Jersey suburbs, which are in the Southern Jersey market. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent is scheduled to be mobilizing their subcontractors around the market now. Completed Network Vision sites are scheduled to start coming online this month.
Philadelphia Metro 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 Philly, 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 this market, it would make the launch approximately January (should the OEM stay on schedule). If they plan on a 40% market completion for launch, that would be December. 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 December, 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" LTE service in Philadelphia. It is difficult to try to pick a date now this far out, but we will take a stab at it. In looking at the schedule as of today, it would indicate a December or January market launch (going on a 40% - 50% completion for launch). But there is no way to know if AlcaLu 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.
Alcatel/Lucent will need to hit a production rate of 50 sites per month to stay on schedule. This is an achievable rate in our opinion. If properly prepared and equipped and if backhaul is ready timely, this market shouldn't have problems staying on time.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by July 2013. However, there may be a few sporadic sites that will linger past the completion.
Photo of the Philadelphia skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.