Almost all of the wireless carriers in the United States have been either talking about 5G deployment, making plans for 5G testing or actually conducting 5G testing. With the standard finally on track to be defined by the 3GPP, the arms race is on and open season has essentially been declared on 5G networking. One U.S. carrier, however, is only just now planning their 5G testing and, up until now, has been relatively quiet about it. Sprint, with the help of Nokia and Ericsson, will be testing their fledgling 5G setup at the COPA American Soccer Tournament next month. Naturally, industry insiders and analysts were not the least bit surprised.
Rather than siding with the pessimists, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure asserted that Sprint is well prepared and optimally positioned for a 5G network rollout, pointing out that the company owns significant amounts of spectrum in and around the 2.5 GHz bands. This spectrum, in the lower ranges of the higher group of spectrum able to be used for 5G networks, will prove easier and cheaper to build out, which will be a boon for Sprint in their current state. Although he was optimistic about the company's holdings and positioning, Claure cut no corners when talking about the company's finances, calling Sprint "poorer than the rest". Clearly, a thrifty approach to network densification and evolution, rather than the layered approach most networks are taking about now, is the optimal approach and, unless something changes, is how Sprint is most likely to approach 5G.
In an earnings slide, Sprint also mentioned their unique capabilities for carrier aggregation in the 20 MHz bands in order to densify and build out their network. With the speeds this would afford, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that, despite there being no talk of carrier aggregation in the 5G definition conversation at this point, Sprint likely plans to make use of this in their 5G buildout. While Claure paints a hopeful picture of a Sprint with uniquely enabling spectrum holdings, some industry analysts are telling a different story. Current Analysis Consumer and Infrastructure VP Peter Jarich called Sprint's 5G talk "defensive".