Sprint will likely deploy Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology on its network in the future. Despite the lack of a detailed timeline, the network operator has already partnered with telecommunications equipment suppliers Spidercloud to test the technology. In a recent test, the two firms d were able to achieve data speeds between 120Mbps and 140Mbps using just 5MHz of licensed spectrum and unlicensed 5GHz spectrum. The carrier elaborated that the equipment from Spidercloud is designed to provide coverage in indoor office environments and it can be installed by simply attaching the small cell to existing WiFi infrastructure. Furthermore, Spidercloud claims that its products are equipped with self-organizing network technology, which enables its small cells to accommodate and adapt to the Wi-Fi networks that are also present in the area.
With this announcement, the company joins rivals AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in utilizing LAA technology to improve the data speeds experienced by customers. LAA allows carriers to employ both the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum and licensed frequencies to provide LTE services. Licensed spectrum serves as an anchor that carries the control and signaling information that is necessary to ensure reliability and quality of service while the unlicensed frequency provides the additional bandwidth necessary to boost data speeds. In addition, LAA utilizes the listen-before-talk protocol which prevents interference with Wi-Fi routers and other equipment that also takes advantage of the 5GHz frequency. This protocol selects which channels are clear by checking if there are other devices that already transmit on a certain channel.
However, a spokesperson from Sprint reiterated that they can still provide Gigabit LTE across the United States with just its licensed spectrum. The carrier recently revealed at a brokers conference its plans to improve the coverage and performance of its network. An important part of the plan is the construction of thousands of new cell sites to serve specific neighborhoods that the company has yet to cover. The firm also plans to upgrade all its base stations to support its three LTE frequencies, the 800MHz, 1900MHz, and 2500MHz bands.It is particularly important for Sprint to deploy the 2.5GHz band to all of its base stations in order to improve the experience of its subscribers. The carrier also intends to install Massive MIMO antennas on its towers, which should allow the cell site to send and receive multiple data streams at the same time.