Sprint’s Unlimited customers can be confident in our ability to keep meeting their demand for data now and in the future
By Dr. John Saw, Chief Technology Officer, Sprint
After years of trying to convince customers they don’t want or need Unlimited data, Verizon this week suddenly reversed course. We applaud the move – we’ve been offering Unlimited data for 10 years, because it’s the right thing to do in a data-driven world. But buyer beware. Sustaining this undertaking over the long-term requires a depth of spectrum that Verizon may not have.
There’s good news though for Sprint customers. With holdings of 204 MHz of spectrum, Sprint has more spectrum capacity than Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. We’re confident in our ability to serve our customers now and in the future, because we hold more spectrum capacity than any other carrier in the U.S. A lot more.
But even more important, our 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets is high-band spectrum, so it’s built for data. Networks of the past were primarily designed for voice using low- and mid-band spectrum. But today’s networks, and future 5G networks, are different. They’re best-served with high-band spectrum that can move large volumes of data at very fast speeds. This is why just this week the Next Generation Mobile Networks Forum (NGMN) released their white paper on 5G Spectrum and recognized 2.5 GHz as one of the recommended bands for sub-6 GHz 5G.
The 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE Advantage
Another important difference between Sprint’s spectrum and the other carriers’ is TDD-LTE (Time Division Duplex). TDD is used today in data-centric formats such as Wi-Fi, and TDD-LTE spectrum bands are leading candidates for future 5G formats. A key advantage of TDD-LTE is its flexible and efficient use of spectrum. For example, with TDD-LTE, Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum uses unpaired channels, enabling us to apply more spectrum and capacity to downlink versus uplink. But Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are stuck with FDD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplex) using paired spectrum channels that require the same amount of spectrum be applied to downlink as uplink. This makes FDD-LTE a highly inefficient user of spectrum in asymetric applications such as Unlimited HD video streaming. And in the future, if there’s more traffic demand for uplink, TDD-LTE gives Sprint the flexibility to shift more spectrum resources to the uplink.
Looking ahead to this year and beyond, we’ll keep making progress on our Densification and Optimization strategy, adding more capacity to our network with our 2.5 GHz spectrum. We’ll light up more small cells with a very cost-efficient model using dedicated spectrum and innovative backhaul solutions. And we’ll expand our toolbox with other solutions such as four-channel carrier aggregation, higher order and Massive MIMO, 256 QAM, and High Performance User Equipment. We’ll also demonstrate Gbps-class performance showcasing the incredible potential of our 2.5 GHz spectrum.
As we approach gigabit LTE and 5G, the type of spectrum, amount of spectrum, and associated technologies each carrier uses will become even more important. They will be defining factors in the race to provide customers not only with Unlimited data, but high-bandwidth experiences. I guarantee, in a dense urban world of 4K/8K video, high-definition VR apps and more, spectrum will be king.