It has been nearly a year since Sprint Nextel announced plans to overhaul its Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands infrastructure to roll out the 4G Network Vision service. But now it seems the network conversion is finally underway, a move stateside industry sources said Monday could lead to an August deployment of the next-generation technology.
However, the launch of the highly anticipated Long-Term Evolution network — which all of Sprint’s wireless competitors on the island have already adopted or are in the process of deploying — may come later, stateside blog S4GRU reported earlier this month.
S4GRU describes itself as unaffiliated with Sprint Nextel, but dedicated to providing updates of the carrier’s 4G plans across its footprint.
As News is my Business reported in May 2011, Sprint has partnered with Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung to overhaul its network. The work includes upgrading 252 cell sites in Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, and 14 sites in St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
“Samsung and their subcontractors are indeed beginning work in the PR/USVI market this month and will get started on the first 22 sites,” said S4GRU in an Apr. 4 blog entry. “The Network Vision schedule for the entire market will run from April out into November.”
Attempts to reach local Sprint executives were unsuccessful Monday.
“The entire PR/USVI market deployment does not start in one city and then spread out across to other areas. Rather, each part of the market gets more towers month after month until the whole market is complete,” the dedicated site stated.
“If this schedule holds, Sprint will likely announce the market as live in August. The San Juan area will be largely complete by the end of September,” S4GRU writer Robert Herron said.
When Sprint announced its plans to improve its local footprint, Sprint Puerto Rico General Manager Patricia Eaves noted that the islands were part of the its “first-round” markets where 4G would be launched, along with Houston and New York City.
“This made a lot of sense because the PR/USVI market is rather small and there are a lot of characteristics of this market that would make it ideal to start an early deployment and gain a learning curve from,” S4GRU said in a separate blog entry filed early last month. “However, sources within Sprint have told us that the Puerto Rico market was moved to the second round deployment some time in the last quarter of 2011.”
The delay allowed AT&T, Claro, T-Mobile and Open Mobile to move ahead with their own 4G/LTE plans.
While S4GRU also reported that Sprint will soon follow with LTE, it is not certain whether it will go live in conjunction with the 4G upgrades.