Earlier today in an investor conference held in New York City, Sprint’s executive team laid out its plans regarding its long-term Network Vision initiative first announced in December of last year. The initiative will take Sprint from its current state to a more streamlined carrier while confirming key details regarding its agreement with LightSquared as well as its own plans to transition to LTE. Continue reading for the full breakdown.
First, Sprint has confirmed that the first stage of the Network Vision transition began last Sunday with the launch of Sprint Direct Connect service. The relaunched Direct Connect service differs from the stillborn launch in 2009 in that it has been redeveloped as a platform agnostic service and will be made available on Android as a standalone application along with dedicated hardware. The transition will continue with the first phase of the Network Vision switch during this quarter, whereby more and more cellsites will be consolidated from the current 40,000+ footprint to the goal of 22,000 converged multi-mode cellsites by 2017.
Second, Sprint has confirmed that it will launch LTE service in the middle of next year on a combination of current 1900 MHz spectrum and will be preparing to rollout LightSquared’s 1600MHz implementation as the network host, provided the embattled network wholesaler can receive the proper approvals from the FCC. In terms of devices, dual-mode CDMA/LTE devices will also be released in the same timeframe. However, Sprint took great pains to emphasize that WiMax hardware and devices would continue to be supported during the transition in 2012, including new hardware launches.
Third, Sprint also detailed how the initiative would improve coverage by demonstrating current coverage maps and new Network Vision coverage maps whereby coverage gaps, (shown in yellow above) would be virtually eliminated due to the increased spectrum availability from the accelerated iDEN transition slated to end in 2013 as well as increased efficiency from the multi-mode basestations. However, the Network Vision initiative as it stands has increased in cost from the 4-5 billion expected by investors to $10 billion within the next two years, with the upside of having all of the initial buildout completed, including initial network testing for LTE and 1x Advanced.