Sprint is putting a lot of money into its network ahead of its pending acquisition by T-Mobile US. Speaking during a Wells Fargo 5G Forum this week, Sprint CTO John Saw said that over the last few months the company released $1 billion in purchase orders primarily for equipment related to its massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) deployment.
“We are not slowing down investments,” Saw said, reiterating that the company plans to devote $5 billion to $6 billion in capex on its network this year. “Merger or no merger we are improving our network. A lot of what we are doing is foundational for Sprint and the new company.”
Sprint announced in February that it would deploy 5G by putting antennas in its towers that can handle massive MIMO transmissions. Those sites are supposed to increase network capacity up to 10 times that of regular 4G LTE. The company will then upgrade to 5G NR using software.
During the investor event Saw said that the network upgrades will allow Sprint to support both LTE and 5G at the same time. He also said that some of the company’s massive MIMO field tests in Texas are carrying live traffic.
And while Saw insists that Sprint will have a strong 5G network even if the T-Mobile deal is not approved, he said that the two companies together will have a much better 5G network. “Together we can build a much larger 5G footprint with a much higher capacity at a faster rate,” he said.
Interestingly, Saw also said that one market that the new T-Mobile (the name of the post-merger company) is eyeing for its 5G service is the rural U.S. where there are a limited number of broadband providers. He said that the new T-Mobile could disrupt that market by offering a fixed wireless service. The rural market has 62 million households, Saw said. And the new company can cover 85 percent of this area. “The fixed wireless play becomes compelling and disruptive,” he added.
Verizon is planning to deploy a fixed 5G wireless service using its own pre-standard 5G specification. The company has said it will deploy that service in three to five markets this year. However, Verizon isn’t targeting the rural market. Instead, it’s planning to offer a residential broadband play in urban areas.