So, what handset do I need to experience LTE Advanced? Has anyone observed "Gigabit-Class" speeds yet?
Sprint Reaches Nationwide LTE Advanced Milestone and Delivers Gigabit-Class Performance in More than 225 Cities
by Dr. John Saw
Chief Technology Officer
Sprint’s Next-Gen Network build gains momentum in second fiscal quarter
October 31, 2018
5G is nearly here, but it’s no secret that LTE has a long runway, playing a critical role in delivering a great wireless experience for customers in the years ahead. This is one of the reasons we’re investing billions in our Next-Gen Network, building a strong LTE Advanced network while we work to launch mobile 5G in the first half of next year.
We’ve been steadily rolling out LTE Advanced technologies such as 256 QAM, 4X4 MIMO, enhanced Beamforming with Transmission Mode 9 (TM9) and two- and three-channel Carrier Aggregation. In addition, we are also enhancing our Uplink performance with capabilities like Uplink Carrier Aggregation, 64 QAM and High Performance User Equipment (HPUE). And we’re in the process of supercharging these capabilities with Massive MIMO! All these features are giving customers an even better LTE data experience, and they’re important stepping stones to 5G, providing a strong fallback layer to ensure customers move seamlessly between our LTE and 5G networks.
We’re excited to report that our LTE Advanced network is now nationwide, delivering up to 2X faster speeds than before. And in more than 225 cities we’re now delivering gigabit-class LTE performance.1 This includes many of the largest cities in the country – Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C., with many more on the way. These Sprint LTE Advanced capabilities enable customers nationwide using the latest flagship devices to download movies, music and games, share photos and more, all up to twice as fast as before.2
Small Cells and Massive MIMO Gain Momentum
In addition to these LTE Advanced capabilities, our network team remains hard at work rolling out more capacity and new network infrastructure.
On the small cells front, we continue to make great progress with more small cells being lit up in the past six months than in the previous two years combined. Today we now have more than 21,000 2.5 GHz outdoor small cells on-air, compared to only 2,000 last year. This includes approximately 15,000 strand mount small cells deployed on cable infrastructure, and about 6,500 on-street mini macros.
Indoors, our award-winning Sprint Magic Box continues to improve service for businesses and consumers with more than 264,000 distributed to date. And this past quarter we launched two new versions – the Sprint Magic Box Hospitality Edition and our smaller, faster, gigabit-class LTE Sprint Magic Box Generation 3, which will be available starting this November.
Our network teams also continue to light up more 5G-ready Massive MIMO radios in preparation to launch Sprint 5G next year in nine of some of the largest cities in the country: New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. This breakthrough technology dramatically improves the capacity of our LTE network and is software upgradable to 5G. We’re extremely pleased with the early commercial performance on these Massive MIMO sites using 64T64R radios. Compared to our 8T8R radios, we’re currently seeing an impressive 4X increase in speeds, and more importantly, a 7X increase in capacity.
Best-Ever Performance in Fastest Download Speeds
Our Next-Gen Network investment is clearly taking hold, delivering a better wireless experience for our customers. In fact, the latest quarterly data from Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® shows Sprint had its best-ever ranking with the fastest average download speed in 123 cities, our most city wins to date.3 And we continue to be the most improved carrier in the country, with national average download speeds up a significant 31.5% year-over-year.4
Similarly, recent Nielsen drive test data in the top 106 markets across the country, shows Sprint is by far the most improved carrier with download speeds up 72% year-over-year.5
The key driver behind our improved data speeds is the deployment of more 2.5 GHz spectrum. Today 2.5 GHz is deployed on roughly 70% of our macro sites – compared to about 50% one year ago – and we remain on track to complete the majority of our triband upgrades by the end of this fiscal year.
Continuing our Next-Gen Network Investment
It’s been a busy second fiscal quarter and I’m proud of the milestone we reached with LTE Advanced technology deployed nationwide, serving up gigabit-class performance in hundreds of cities. Millions of customers now have a data experience that’s up to twice as fast as before. And these technologies play a vital role supporting the roll-out of Sprint 5G in the first half of 2019.
We remain laser-focused on executing our largest network investment in years. Customers all across the country are experiencing better coverage, reliability and speed as we upgrade cell sites to triband service, add new cell sites and small cells, and deploy Massive MIMO technology.
We also continue to advocate for the many benefits of a merger with T-Mobile. We’re confident that our Next-Gen Network investment will help the combined company rapidly create the best nationwide mobile 5G network, fueling unprecedented levels of innovation here in the U.S. and around the globe.
1 On gigabit-class devices.
2 Compared to Sprint 4G LTE.
3 Analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds from 7/1/18 to 9/30/18 for all mobile results.
4 Analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data comparing average download speeds from September 2017 to September 2018 for all mobile results.
5 Sprint’s analysis of Nielsen’s Drive Test data in the top 106 markets for GET3 speeds (10 seconds 1GB parallel file download testing network capability) comparing 2017 D1 to latest drives (completed from 4/18 to 9/18)