Too Few Towers, Sprint Adds Small Cells to Focus As It Eyes 5G

By: Inside Towers

As Sprint prepares to move into the 5G era, it leadership believes it does not have enough tower sites to densify its network as it plays catch up with the three other big carriers – AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Tarek Robbiati, Sprint’s CFO, said the carrier intends to leverage the power of small cell networks in its 2.5 GHz spectrum to stay competitive, according to

"The most efficient spectrum for high-capacity networks is high-frequency spectrum, so the sort of spectrum we have, 2.5," Robbiati told a recent investor conference. "But you can also read through the literature about what our competition is saying of their ambitions. They have very high-frequency spectrum, which is almost in microwave territory, and that's very telling. And there's a simple engineering law that governs this: It's that higher frequency spectrum is more efficient to handle very large capacity of traffic, and that's a world we're moving toward with 5G."

Robbiati acknowledged the problem with the high-frequency spectrum is that "it doesn't propagate very far." More cell sites are required to support lower-band spectrum. And that requires small cells along with traditional macro sites, notes Fiercewireless.

"There are simply not enough tower sites in the country to do what we intend to do," Robbiati said, according to the news site. "We have about 40,000 sites, and most players in the United States have about 50,000 sites. With 50,000 sites you cannot really densify a network to give really high capacity to people in this country. You need to think differently. And you need to have a very different way of engineering your network which is a lot more around small cells and putting a lot more spectrum on air. That's a different way of engineering; it's a fundamentally different unit cost per site. It's much lower, but at the same time you need more sites."