Third-party metrics continue to validate Sprint’s improved network performance
November 17, 2015
By Dr. John Saw, CTO, Sprint
The Sprint network is hitting its stride. We’re seeing a significant improvement in performance resulting from our 800MHz and 2.5GHz build, our relentless focus on cell site optimization, and our targeted deployment of LTE Advanced features like carrier aggregation and beamforming.  As a result, we’re today unveiling the Sprint LTE Plus network.
LTE Plus, available today in 103 major markets, takes advantage of our rich triband spectrum portfolio, and it uses some of the world’s most advanced technologies in wireless such as carrier aggregation and antenna beamforming. Key benefits to our customers include:
  • Faster service with double the network capacity and speed, and peak speeds in excess of 100Mbps on capable devices
  • Stronger service with smart antenna technology that extends the cell signal further at 2.5GHz
  • More reliable service utilizing three bands of spectrum – 1.9GHz for broad coverage, 800MHz for better indoor service, and 2.5GHz for even faster data speeds
Carrier aggregation allows us to bond multiple spectrum channels together to build a fatter pipe with double the capacity and speed.  Beamforming is a signal processing technique that directs signals from multiple antennas towards where our customers are.  Our 2.5GHz LTE system with 8 Transmit 8 Receive (8T8R) radios is the sweet spot for enabling smart antenna beamforming.  Simply stated, while our competitors are sending LTE data meant for a specific customer to everyone in a sector, we are able to transmit more directive beams to exactly where our customers are located.  As shown in the chart below, the combination of carrier aggregation and beamforming is giving our customers a much improved throughput experience, especially at the cell edges and indoors.  We’re proud to be one of the first operators in the world to roll out two key functionalities of LTE Advanced: carrier aggregation and beamforming.  We have relentlessly pushed to get those two LTE Advanced features deployed to our customers and today we’re happy to share that this functionality is available in 103 of our largest markets. 

Our new LTE Plus network using LTE Advanced technology is a significant differentiator for Sprint and our customers.  It’s also the foundation on which we will roll out more LTE Advanced capabilities such as 3/4/5-channel carrier aggregation, higher order MIMO and more advanced beamforming, seamless WiFi integration and more.   Looking ahead we will also continue to expand our LTE Plus device portfolio which today holds 13 devices, including some of the hottest smartphones on the market such as the iPhone 6s, HTC One A9, and the Samsung Galaxy S6.   

The Sprint LTE Plus Network is Faster Than Verizon and AT&T
It is interesting to see how the new LTE Plus network has fared in 3rd party benchmark testing recently.  One metric we follow closely at Sprint is the Nielsen Mobile Performance (NMP) data which looks at how real consumers are using their wireless devices. NMP is crowd sourced data that measures network performance under actual user demand, whereas other data sources measure a network’s performance capability via stress testing like speed tests.
Every week Nielsen analyzes network performance data from tens of thousands of consumer panelists using Android devices recruited in 44 of the largest U.S. markets. Nielsen uses crowd-sourced data to measure consumers’ use of common applications such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. Based on Nielsen’s crowd-sourced data, Sprint’s application download speeds for all file sizes have now surpassed Verizon and AT&T, with significant gains made starting in July when our deployment of two-channel 2.5GHz carrier aggregation began taking hold.
Furthermore, the same NMP data set indicates that Sprint’s LTE Plus network delivers large files (5MB+) faster than any other carrier in 20 out of 44 markets tested. Again, we see the positive impact here from carrier aggregation which kicks in when network demand is high, resulting in a correlation between bigger files and faster speeds. So, you need to download that work presentation to your phone? Sprint will get it there the fastest. Downloading a movie before you hop on a flight? You’ll get it quicker with Sprint.

Sprint Maintains Lowest Latency Ranking
Another important metric, latency, looks at the delay between the time wireless information is sent and received. OpenSignal reports that in the third quarter of 2015 Sprint had the lowest LTE latency, beating out AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. This is the second consecutive quarter for Sprint to hold this lowest latency ranking.
Carrier Aggregation is Driving “Killer Speeds”
Where our network shines the brightest is when new devices such as the iPhone 6s meet carrier aggregation (technology that essentially creates wider lanes, allowing more data to travel at faster speeds). In PC Magazine’s recent review of Sprint’s iPhone 6s we received the Editor’s Choice Award in large part due to our “killer speeds.” Journalist Sascha Segan touted the iPhone 6s’ great new features, but stated “that’s not why Sprint customers in major cities should be turning over their old iPhones for the latest model. The chart below is.”

PC Magazine looked at results for LTE connections on Sprint iPhones from October 1-9. They analyzed more than 32,000 individual speed tests, including more than 10,000 taken on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. They found that the average download speeds on the two new devices are 50 percent faster than the iPhone 5/5c/5s. And they found much higher peak speeds on our network - 121Mbps for the iPhone 6s, as opposed to 78Mbps for the iPhone 6, and 42Mbps for the iPhone 5s.
Our LTE Plus network running two-channel carrier aggregation with beamforming is making a real impact in 103 markets, and cell sites with the capability are delivering double the capacity and speeds. Just this week, RootMetrics released a new report showing we now have the fastest mobile network in Corpus Christi, Texas, with a #1 ranking in network speed and data performance. Sprint pulled in the fastest median download speed at 22Mbps, up from 3.3Mbps in the previous test.
It’s exciting to see the power of our 2.5GHz spectrum come to fruition. With approximately 120MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum in 90 of the top 100 largest cities, it’s no secret that we have the highest capacity network in the U.S. to meet the growing data demands of our customers. With our LTE Advanced functionalities and our rich 2.5GHz spectrum position, Sprint has a strong foundation for future development into the more data intensive world of 5G.
We’re excited about these improvements and you’ll see us continue our momentum by building a very competitive, capacity-rich network. Key to our strategy is network densification - increasing the number of cell sites across our 2.5GHz, 1.9GHz and 800MHz spectrum bands. With a treasure trove of 2.5GHz spectrum that excels at moving huge volumes of data at very high speeds, we can continue to meet our customers’ appetites for mobile data. We’re encouraged by these new third-party metrics and we’ll keep pushing hard to deliver an outstanding network experience for our customers.

Editor’s Note: The above information has been updated to note the availability of LTE Plus in 103 cities, not 77 as previously stated