Sprint has been on the move in upgrading their network's LTE capabilities and getting ready to roll out 5G lately, and their COO of Technology, Guenther Ottendorfer, recently laid out a nice explainer for The Now Network's most recent network updates and upgrades. RCR Wireless caught up with him for a recent "Carrier Wrap", where he explained Sprint's plans for a future 5G rollout, how they're going to approach building out to prepare for it, and their plans for their LTE network in the mean time. Essentially, their expansion and bolstering strategy will hinge on boosting capacity, using small cells for backend, and converting stations using new technologies that they demonstrated alongside Nokia at this year's Mobile World Congress.
Essentially, the plan is to use small cells alongside their macro cell sites, which they recently got approval to give a power boost to. These boosted macro sites will see greater coverage, capacity, uplink and downlink on the same protocols with the same software and equipment. The small cells, meanwhile, will work to not only provide their own network capacity, but to route user traffic amongst themselves to help ease the load on the macro sites. A similar approach will be taken with 5G when it begins rolling out, but tests of this strategy on existing LTE networks seem to be going well. In Manhattan, New York, for example, around 200 small cells were deployed over a given area, and there were measurable user benefits. Deploying small cells on a larger scale, then, would logically follow as a prime way to continue enhancing the network.
Looking forward, Sprint will be continuing the push for macro cell site enhancement that they began last year, and will start to throw down small cells in a number of major metropolitan areas. This deployment will allow them to begin overhauling their macro sites for 4.9G and eventual 5G deployment while users receive mostly the same LTE service that they are used to from the small cells. Those, as well, will eventually go over to the new technologies. While Sprint has not set a date for sunsetting all of their current pre-LTE networks just yet and Ottendorfer did not directly address the subject, it seems to be the logical conclusion of what can only be described as a large-scale, wave-style conversion to 5G-capable cell sites. If things go as planned, when the 5G standard is finalized, Sprint will be ready, and should have a network up and running by the projected 2020 commercialization date that various organizations and other carriers have been throwing around.