Sprint Confirms Network Upgrades and Cost-Saving Strategy

by Matt Klassen on February 1, 2016

sprint-100368849-primary.idgeAs paradoxical as it may seem, there were rumours earlier this month that Sprint was not only planning to expand its network by adding new cellular infrastructure across the country, but to actually do it as part of a cost-savings plan, rumours that Sprint has now made official.

The key part of Sprint’s ongoing network improvement and cost-saving strategy seems to be a re-examination of its current cell tower leases with third party providers, finding which leases are the least cost-effective and working to find ways to replace the coverage of those towers with lower cost alternatives, particularly looking at locating towers on public, government-owned land, instead of more costly private land.

In fact, reports indicate that Sprint is taking a distinctly unorthodox approach to its national network coverage, looking to replace its more expensive cell towers with small cells and bridging coverage gaps with “mini-macro” towers, providing users with the same reliable and powerful network performance (or perhaps even better) at a fraction of the cost to Sprint.

But in confirming its plans to expand its network, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has also assured the company’s subscriber base that it will be business as usual during this time, and that there will be no disruption to network performance or coverage.

“We are focused on densification, without jeopardizing the customer network,” Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in an earnings call to discuss the company’s earnings. “We’ll look at towers, rooftops, and monopoles and then choose the most efficient way to plan. Everything will make the network more dense. By no means is this rip and replace.”

Claure said Sprint will be “very opportunistic in optimizing antennae on lower cost infrastructure [such as] macro sites and public sites for similar or better performance at lower cost.” Not only that, but company CEO Marcelo Clause has promised that Sprint’s “progressive build” approach to network upgrades and cell tower additions will have no impact on network connectivity.

Now with talk of cancelling lease contracts with third-party tower providers, Sprint’s network chief John Saw has clarified that his company is “well aware” of its contractual commitments, only that the company will take a closer look at contract renewals going forward, specifically targeting more expensive tower leases located on private property, rooftops and other more costly locations, replacing those with lower cost alternatives.

Regarding those less costly plans, Saw remained relatively tight-lipped, saying almost nothing about the company’s plans to implement small cell or “mini-macro” towers alongside traditional wireless network infrastructure. “We will tell you as much as we want to tell you,” Saw said. “I want to make sure we don’t give our playbook away.”

In addition to reducing the expense of cellular towers, Sprint is also looking for ways to reduce its dependency on AT&T and Verizon high-speed fibre-optic cables that provide links to the cellular towers—known in the industry as “backhaul”—confirming that the company plans to deploy microwave technology to replace some of the infrastructure Sprint currently leases from its rivals.

While Sprint has remained coy on the details of its change to tower leases and changes to its backhaul, the company has also remained vague on exactly how much all this will save the company, although some insider reports put the figure at somewhere around $1 billion, all part of Sprint’s ongoing efforts to reduce its operating costs and stem the tide of ongoing quarterly losses.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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