Last year, Sprint announced that they would eventually be relying a bit more on small cells for network densification. For the time being, they don't even plan on participating in the FCC's 600MHz incentive auction, simply because they already hold tons of spectrum; the kicker is that most if it is in the higher bands, spectrum that makes for signals that don't travel too far and aren't too good at piercing buildings, making short-range buildout key to utilization. This bold densification plan is basically the polar opposite of what other carriers are doing, which is to say that they're trying to build out for maximum reach from minimum cells by using as much low-band spectrum as possible. Sprint's bold plan is also proposed to entail connecting cells wirelessly, necessitating a cell or two at least every hundred yards or so. This also happens to position their network optimally for a quick and cheap 5G rollout.
In order to get cells in just about every nook and cranny of the nation, Sprint is going to have to partner up with states, counties, townships, cities, villages and every other type of municipality out there to get permission to build out on their land. Many cell sites of a normal, larger nature find themselves on buildings or piggybacking off of environmental fixtures, or even camouflaged in plain sight, often playing host to multiple carriers' equipment and sending signals for tens of thousands of feet. According to sources, Sprint is looking to not only piggyback on existing utility installations and light poles, but is planning to put up about 70,000 of its own throughout the U.S. in the near future, along with an undisclosed number of smaller installations like cells specifically meant to serve one large building or groups of cells meant to serve places where people congregate.
According to Gary Jabara, chief executive of Mobilitie, who is working with Sprint to achieve this new vision, Sprint's pie-in-the-sky plan actually makes good business sense because of its low cost; such a plan would ideally cost about one fifth of the price of normal cell site upkeep. There have been exceptions, of course. Mobilitie actually wound up paying the city of Baltimore, Maryland about $70,000 per year for privileges to put up a mere 14 small sites, whereas most cities charge somewhere near $50 per installation per year for the requisite licenses and permits.