Five months after its stateside parent announced it, Sprint Puerto Rico officials confirmed the upcoming local launch of its 4G Network Vision blueprint to deploy a cost-effective, innovative network plan to further enhance voice quality and data speeds for customers across the United States. When available, Sprint’s Network Vision is expected to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network.
To complete the network overhaul, Sprint partnered with Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung to implement multi-modular technologies to improve coverage services, quality and speed.
“Improving customer experience in every segment is, as our CEO Dan Hesse said, the driving force behind these network improvements,” said Sprint Puerto Rico General Manager Patricia Eaves. “This is the only network in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that is software based, so it makes it a new and unique network that allows us to make changes in seconds, differently from a hardware-based network that requires switching out equipment.”
The total company-wide investment for the overhaul is $22 billion. Puerto Rico was selected among the first eight initial jurisdictions where 4G will be deployed, along with Houston and New York City. There is no timeframe for when the service will launch.
“This decision to include Puerto Rico in the first deployment shows that this market is important to Sprint,” Eaves said, noting the new technology will do away with the need to enter into roaming or co-location agreements with other carriers.
At present, Sprint uses technology to conduct data and voice services in the 1.9GHz and 2.5GHz spectrums. Through the agreement with the three providers, everything is grouped into a single multimodular switch that carries all signals seamlessly. The infrastructure will include redundancy, while phones will operate in multiple frequency bands, to improve coverage, company officials said during a news conference Wednesday.
Completion of Network Vision across the Sprint network is expected to take from three to five years. However Puerto Rico customers will likely see the first effects of the new infrastructure early next year.
“We will not say we have something when we only cover San Juan because at the end of the day the customer will not have the true Sprint experience and from that standpoint we’ve always been very focused on customer experience,” Eaves said.
Greg Najjar, director of Sprint’s customized engineering division based in Virginia, said the new system will in a sense “hand off” the different signals that customers use to run their devices. As part of the improvements, Sprint’s sister services, Boost and Virgin Mobile will also be benefitted.
The new towers, which integrate the radio systems and the antennas, to be deployed are significantly reduced in size, saving on power and other resources, “so this is a very big thing, as it is green.”
The infrastructure conversion initiative began about two years ago, when Sprint began talks with wireless equipment and technology providers, he added.
Puerto Rico had to wait a long time to get access to next-generation technology, because 4G was not rolled out locally parallel to what took place nationwide two years ago.
Sprint 4G is designed to deliver a better data experience with faster speeds, higher capacity and more spectrum. The 4G netowrk infrastructure is prepared for future technology growth, Najjar said.
After the network improvements, Sprint will finally introduce its “push-to-talk” service, which has so far never been available locally. One of the benefits associated with “push-to-talk” is that it is Internet-based, so it does not rely on phone lines — a feature that is especially beneficial in times of inclement weather conditions.
“This is a very bold move,” said Berge Ayvazian, senior consultant, Heavy Reading. “Sprint was first with an all-digital wireless network; the first to upgrade to EVDO; and, more recently, the first to broadly offer 4G services. Sprint is once again first to deploy a common converged mobile network that will strengthen its 3G services; enhance its 4G technology options; and continue delivering the industry’s leading push-to-talk offering.”