by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 6:00 AM MDT
The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is, the Big Easy, the Crescent City...New Orleans. The New Orleans 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 New Orleans market encompasses all of the Sprint native coverage in the Southeastern Louisiana area. This includes New Orleans and its suburbs, up to Baton Rouge, around the north side of Lake Pontchartrain in Hammond, Covington and Slidell and then over toward Houma and Morgan City. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Ericsson is scheduled to begin mobilizing with its subcontractors before the end of August. Completed Network Vision sites should start coming online in Septemeber.
New Orleans 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 New Orleans, 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.
It doesn't much matter in this market if Sprint launches at 40% or 50% completion. Ericsson is scheduled to hit both the 40% and 50% milestones in the month of January (should they stay on schedule). It may seem 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 January, 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 around NOLA. 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 January 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 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 May 2013. However, there may be a few sporadic sites that will linger past the completion.
Photo of New Orleans skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.