Sprint made good use of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week to tout its agenda for 5G and IoT. This included the announcement that it had completed a 5G data call using its 2.5 GHz spectrum and massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) on the carrier’s live commercial network.
The carrier hailed the test as a significant milestone on its path toward launching mobile 5G service in nine cities in the first half of this year. The test was conducted in San Diego and used global 5G standards. Test partners included Nokia, which provided its dual-mode AirScale massive MIMO radio, and a test mobile device based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G modem.
Sprint CTO John Saw previously noted that the carrier plans to use around 60 megahertz of its 2.5 GHz spectrum to support its initial 5G launch. The carrier has said it would have 5G nationwide by the end of 2019.
The message also appears to be that Sprint is going ahead with 5G with or without T Mobile US – and that was certainly signaled by Sprint President Jan Geldmacher in media interviews this week. Sprint is in the process of being acquired by its larger rival, though some of that paperwork is languishing in the in-trays of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice as the U.S. government shutdown stretched into its third week.
Whether or not the merger is approved, Sprint looks set to launch standards-based 5G smartphones from LG and Samsung this summer. The carrier is working with Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson on network equipment, and has also said it was working with bare-metal cloud startup Packet on hardware in support of its 5G plans. That hardware will use SDN to enable control over edge network deployments.
Certainly, the ideal scenario for both Sprint and T-Mobile is to merge so they can combine the former’s 2.5 GHz spectrum with the latter’s 600 MHz spectrum assets to better compete with AT&T and Verizon.
Verizon in October launched 5G services in a handful of markets using a proprietary technology and millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum that it will update to standards-based technology as equipment becomes available. AT&T in mid-December launched its standards-based mobile 5G service using mmWave spectrum in 12 markets.
For its part, T-Mobile recently completed a 5G data call and video call using 600 MHz spectrum on a live commercial network. The test was conducted with network partners Ericsson and Intel. T-Mobile CEO John Legere last year said the carrier would have commercial mobile 5G services in 30 markets by the end of 2018. It still plans to have a nationwide 5G network in 2020.
The Deutsche Telekom-owned carrier is currently also feeling pretty pleased with itself after reporting another record-beating quarter of subscriber growth. The carrier added 2.4 million total connections during the fourth quarter of 2018, taking its total connection base to 79.7 million at the end of last year.
IoT Gets a Look In
Also at CES, Sprint announced the launch of precision mapping technology based on its Curiosity-branded IoT platform and technology from Mapbox. The carrier has described Curiosity IoT as a fully virtualized and distributed core IoT network and integrated operating system, designed to support IoT devices and solutions for businesses and consumers.
Sprint also sees considerable power in the combination of 5G with its IoT platform to support artificial intelligence, robotics, edge computing, autonomous vehicles, and other IoT systems with very low latency and very high bandwidth requirements. At CES, it announced Greenville, South Carolina, as the first city to work with Sprint on smart city infrastructure and an ecosystem that will be based on Curiosity IoT and ultimately 5G.