Sprint has announced a new $1 billion credit agreement that will be used purchase equipment from Ericsson for the carrier’s Network Vision project. Deutsche Bank leads the group of banks that will be providing the credit facility, and the purchased equipment will help Sprint build out its LTE network. The network is expected to go live in four markets by the middle of this year, with the full rollout due in 2013.
Sprint’s LTE plans include four different bands of spectrum; 800MHz (iDEN to CDMA), 1,900MHz (PCS), and the PCS “G-Block” (for FD-LTE), and possibly 2,500MHz (Clearwire) for TD-LTE.
Everywhere Sprint has 3G coverage, it will also have 4G coverage. Sprint claims coverage in many areas will improve dramatically once 4G LTE replaces 3G service. Sprint has three key partners involved with the infrastructure side of its 4G LTE plans: Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson.
Once the iDEN network has been decommissioned, the 800MHz spectrum will be freed up for 3G CDMA voice and push to talk service as well as 4G LTE data service. Sprint is confident that it has enough spectrum to maintain capacity through 2015.
Sprint Nextel will launch FD-LTE service on Nextel’s PCS spectrum (1.9GHz) which Nextel acquired (but has not yet used) from Nextel’s Consensus Plan swap.
Nextel gave their interfering 800 MHz frequencies to public safety users in exchange for 10 MHz in the PCS band. That spectrum is still not utilized because Nextel first had to move legacy users – tv remote trucks – to another frequency and buy microwave gear for them. Broadcasters have traditionally received corporate welfare from the FCC in the form of free spectrum.
TV remote trucks made room for the Nextel PCS spectrum by moving up the band and using digital compression. The frequency swap also enabled the FCC to stick in a new AWS band as well as a new 2.1 GHz (MSS) satellite phone band for TerraStar and ICO (which has not been successful).
While Verizon uses 2×10 MHz channels at 700 MHz, Sprint would use 2×5 MHz channels at 1.9 GHz. Their Nextel spectrum at 1.9 GHz would be roughly half the speed at half the range. But Sprint’s G-Block spectrum will be combined with other 1900 MHz spectrum for its LTE service. Sprint currently has an average of 20-25 MHz per market nationwide using their 1900 (PCS) service.
Sprint will reduce tower hardware with multi-mode radios and antennas, lowering maintenance costs. At the top of the tower, in the same radio, Sprint will have 1.9 LTE, 1.9 CDMA, 800 CDMA and in the future 800 LTE.