by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Monday, July 2, 2012 - 6:00 AM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is ...Raleigh/Durham. The Raleigh/Durham 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 RDU market encompasses most of Eastern North Carolina, except the coastal areas. This includes the Research Triangle/Raleigh-Durham metro area, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, Southern Pines/Pinehurst, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Greenville, Kinston and Goldsboro. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent is scheduled to begin mobilizing their subcontractors around the market this month. The first completed Network Vision sites are scheduled to start coming online in August.
Raleigh/Durham 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 Raleigh, 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
Sprint has not selected a date to formally "launch" LTE service in Raleigh/Durham, yet. 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 needs to hit a production rate of only 35 sites per month to stay on schedule. This is a pretty low rate. This market shouldn't have problems staying on time, or maybe even getting ahead of schedule.
S4GRU has examined the schedule in great detail in this market and sees that most of the sites will be complete by August 2013. However, there may be a few sporadic sites that will linger past the completion.
Photo of the Downtown Raleigh provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.