Sprint's fairly robust first quarter was marred by investors and analysts sending their stock plunging 9%, but chairman and SoftBank CEO sang a different tune, saying that Sprint's wide spectrum portfolio would be their saving grace. In a conference call meant to follow up on the carrier's Q4 of fiscal year 2016 earnings call, Son asserted that other operators in the US simply wouldn't have enough spectrum to keep up as Sprint began to roll out network improvements based on their massive 2.5GHz holdings left over from their defunct iDEN and WiMax networks. He also introduced a new LTE-based small cell technology that Sprint would be using to begin the rollout of new network technology based on that spectrum. The plan is to refarm those same small cells for 5G later, alongside entirely new small cells meant specifically for 5G usage.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure joined Son in expressing confidence in the carrier's 2.5GHz holdings. At present, they're routing about half of their total data traffic through only one fourth of the total 2.5GHz spectrum that they have. In theory, this means that they could more than double their coverage and bolster their network stability and speed by putting that spectrum to its fullest possible use. The plan with small cells to build out a 5G network is a perfect match for the vast amount of spectrum; it can be used to lay down tons of small cells with different frequencies throughout different markets. A full-coverage 5G buildout big and rich enough to cover all of Sprint's customers and then some, even for unlimited data, may be possible using the 2.5GHz spectrum alone. Essentially, Sprint's massive 2.5GHz holdings make it entirely viable for them to move their entire network to small cells, a distinct advantage over other carriers.
Despite Son and Claure's confidence, analysts concerns over Sprint's future network buildout are not entirely unfounded. Sprint and SoftBank are languishing over exactly how to go about using the company's huge amount of 2.5GHz spectrum because of the money issues that they've been facing. Sprint's dwindling cash flow could conceivably end up falling short of what's needed for a meaningful network buildout with the vaunted 2.5GHz spectrum. Talk of selling or leasing some of the spectrum was thrown around, which would leave Sprint in a somewhat less advantageous position when everybody begins putting their cards on the table for 5G.