Sprint expands LTE to Baltimore; downloads measured at 15Mbps

Sprint official warns data hogs with unlimited plans not to abuse the service

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Sprint doesn't have any formal plans under Network Vision for Wi-Fi offloading of network traffic in busy areas, but Chu said that is one option. Verizon and AT&T are incorporating Wi-Fi hotspots in their coverage plans.

At the Baltimore location shown to reporters, Sprint has kept its Wimax routers in a large, ground-level cabinet, next to a separate new LTE cabinet. Inside the LTE cabinet are several rack-mounted LTE routers from Alcatel Lucent.

The LTE cabinet is connected with fiber optic cables and power cables to three sets of LTE antennas mounted on the roof of the building that houses the Polish National Alliance Club and other tenants.

The antennas, from vendor RFS, are arranged to receive and send data in all directions, and can even be tilted and adjusted remotely, Chu said. Each of the three large antennas has eight different antennas inside, four for receiving signals, four for sending signals under the Multiple Input, Multiple Output design that helps give LTE widespread coverage, Sprint said.

Below each antenna on the roof, Alcatel Lucent has installed a Remote Radio Head (RRH) box, containing circuitry that connects to the ground-level routers. Chu said that older network technologies used to put the RRH box inside or near the cabinet at ground-level, but locating the box near the antenna increases "gain" efficiency, or how well a signal is received.

Sprint is working with LTE equipment suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung nationally, and recently announced it will work with Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung to provide small cell infrastructure for its network rollouts.

LTE is widely perceived to save network operators costs because it gives greater coverage than older technologies, cutting down on the number of cell sites, towers, antennas and base stations with routers and other gear needed as usage increases. In addition to offering greater in-building coverage, LTE offers lower latency in making connections to the Internet.

Chu maintained that Sprint's networks will allow smooth transitions from LTE to 3G, where needed, compared to Verizon's network architecture.

Asked whether greater LTE network efficiencies might yield lower monthly bills for customers, Chu and other officials laughed. "It means bills might not go up as much," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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