On June 23rd, Sprint (S) held their Happy Connecting event in Chicago and although there was no jaw-dropping news, the company hosted a tower of a Sprint Spark cell site with Dr. John Saw, Chief Network Officer. “While we believe the announcements were received more as “ho-hum,” our cell site tour offered us more evidence that Sprint is indeed taking strides in the right direction with its network re-build,” Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo said. The tour was of a tri-band test site, where Sprint leverages its 8T8R technology on 2.5GHz, 1.9GHz (4T2R) and 800MHz (1T2R) radios. “Saw mentioned the technology also allows for multi-antenna processing (multi-mode MIMO). He mentioned 8×8 MIMO can achieve 4x speeds, and produce theoretical download speeds +1Gbps. With 3 carriers lit (60MHz total), theoretical speeds increase to +150Mbps. A software upgrade is required to light up each additional carrier. These cell sites improve urban coverage 20-25% (and help in-building coverage), suburban coverage by 50% and rural areas by 70%. S has deployed “hundreds” of these sites around the country thus far,” Fritzsche explained.
This T8R8 will boost capacity and coverage in their LTE network. Today’s systems usually have two transmitting antennas and two receiving antennas at the cell site. Kevin Fitchard of GigaOM explains, “So 8T8R isn’t going to boost the overall speed of the network, but it will help even out the wild peaks and dips in performance you usually experience when moving through the network. Basically it means you’ll experience faster speeds in more places, instead of only when you’re near a tower.” T-Mobile has tried a similar technology upgrade with their network using four antennas instead of eight.