Sprint will use the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer competition in June to showcase its 5G technology trials. During the wireless carrier’s first-quarter earnings call today, CEO Marcelo Claure said Sprint will conduct the 5G demonstrations using gear from Nokia and Ericsson.
The 5G tests will focus on the delivery of 4K streaming video of the soccer matches at two stadiums involved in the international soccer competition. A Sprint spokeswoman declined to provide further details about which two stadiums have been selected or when the demonstrations will occur.
Claure did say that the 5G trial will use millimeter wave spectrum.
This is the first time the 100-year-old Copa America Centenario soccer competition will be held in the United States. The tournament, which starts June 3 and ends June 26, consists of 32 soccer matches. Those matches will be held in 10 cities around the country including Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; Glendale, Ariz.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Pasadena, Calif.; Seattle; Orlando, Fla.; East Rutherford, N.J.; and Foxborough, Mass.
It’s not surprising that Sprint’s 5G trials will be held in conjunction with the high-profile soccer match. Earlier this year Sprint announced that it was a corporate sponsor of the Copa America tournament.
Plus, Claure is a well-known fan of the sport. He owns Bolivian soccer giant Bolivar and has been working with soccer legend David Beckham to bring a major league soccer franchise to Miami.
Up until this point, Sprint had been quiet about any 5G plans, unlike its competitors Verizon and AT&T, which have both announced plans to trial 5G this year.
However, the company’s network team is not so bullish on software-defined networking (SDN). At the Competitive Carriers Conference in Nashville, Tenn., last month, Jay Bluhm, vice president of network planning at Sprint, said that his company was taking a wait-and-see approach to SDN. Bluhm said that Sprint will likely deploy network functions virtualization (NFV) for some applications but isn’t ready to deploy it throughout the whole network.
“The issue is scaling it throughout the network,” he said. “It’s a big change to the network.”