Amid plans to cut costs, including by way of numerous layoffs, Sprint is also busy overhauling their network. Although network overhauls have historically meant issues for Sprint subscribers, they are promising that this time around will be different. The plan is to overhaul the network using small cells, as well as moving off of leased land when possible to go with cheaper options, such as government-owned land. As part of this overhaul, smaller, more agile cells will be used. These new small cells will, of course, require their own support and backhaul. To that end, Sprint CTO John Saw has indicated that the smaller cells will utilize Sprint’s existing 2.5GHz spectrum and “dark fiber”, fiber optic cable laid out as extra at the time of the network’s installation to save having to install more later, which is often leased out until it’s needed.
According to CEO Marcelo Claure, the company is currently on track to focus on network densification and optimization in the midst of budget cuts to make the most of Sprint’s current resources. Fairly high subscriber growth in the most recent quarter has helped Sprint to keep their new strategy going, but they haven’t been doing terribly well lately. After losing their buyer, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, over $3.2 billion, it stands to reason that there is a lot riding on this network revitalization. Claure and Saw both did state that they are aware of the challenges that Sprint’s long-term leases on equipment may present for the network densification and revitalization, but there are currently no plans to break those leases.
Saw noted that, once the leases are expired, they will be looking at all available options for optimizing their network, saying “As we densify and add more sites we will optimize the costs and look for lower cost infrastructure to attach antennas…” He also added that the company is undergoing testing using its 2.5GHz spectrum holdings for network backhaul, saying “I am confident that with a backhaul strategy of dark fiber and microwave radio and small cells being surgical and precise, we can have a very low cost and efficient backhaul plan…”