Sprint’s network has undergone many changes and a huge amount of expansion over the past few years. It’s no secret that their LTE network could be better, especially with WiMax spectrum still tied up. The biggest project thus far, known as the “Next Generation Network” initiative, is already seeing returns as it focuses on increasing the network density and adding spectrum compatibility. Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo Claure, has said that a large portion of their current macro cell sites will be upgraded into compliance with the new network standard, including compatibility for 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2500MHz spectrum. New cell sites in macro and micro flavors are set to be deployed in tons of new areas, with numbers in the thousands.
Sprint has not made their plans public on a terribly specific level, citing that they’ll be using multiple vendors for the project and doing a lot of optimization work with existing spectrum and equipment. Over the next two years, Sprint’s planned optimizations are said to place them at the top of the heap not only with regards to current networks but in future-proofing and 600MHz readiness as well. Sprint has already begun to activate carrier aggregation on the 2500MHz band in some markets, which allows them to grab and merge in nearby, unused spectrum for a stronger, faster data signal. So far, Sprint has a stable of 12 devices that are capable of accessing the aggregated networks, with the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6 families being among them. LTE speed tests on an iPhone 6s seem to corroborate this, showing a 50 percent increase in speed over tests on the iPhone 6 in similar network conditions. Real world peak speeds on the iPhone 6S running the aggregated network reached a blistering 120mbps.
Accolades were awarded to Sprint by RootMetrics, sending 55 more first-place “RootScore” awards Sprint’s way in various categories such as speed and reliability. Nielsen testing has revealed that most of Sprint’s usage is on popular apps such as Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram and Netflix. Network speeds on these apps through Sprint’s new aggregated networks have been shown to leave competitors AT&T and Verizon in the dust. It looks like Sprint’s new network initiatives are indeed paying off and their ambitions of having the top network before 2018 may just be doable. The upcoming 600MHz auction could shift the balance dramatically, especially with controversy over whether Sprint will bid in the auction at all. If Sprint manages to make out well at the auction and continue upgrades as they’ve been doing them recently, their chances of fulfilling their lofty goal are quite high.