Sprint adamantly against refarming existing spectrum, got some relief from having to fit all their LTE hopes and dreams into the PCS G band by a recent rule change by the FCC. The report and order allows re-channelization of the SMR spectrum to facilitate larger channels such as those used by LTE, with exceptions in border areas (US, Canada, PR) that are well documented and they can only use this larger channel capability where the Public Safety guys have already relocated or are beyond a 70Mi boundary, etc etc, yada yada…

So Sprint has been preparing for this day with their infrastructure being open to multiple technologies and spectrums.

Reminder of their ‘any spectrum’ infrastructure under deployment.  

 

The current use of their ESMR/SMR 800MHz spectrum is iDEN based Push to Talk PTT support. As this equipment is all beyond End of Life etc… Sprint is busy upgrading their network to accommodate the next thing.

With this approach and what they currently own, Sprint can use LTE at 800MHz or PCS frequencies in addition to WiMAX at the 2.x spectrum they share with Clear. (Some of it is jointly deployed.)

Back to the FCC, they have been shifting around use of the 800MHz in earnest since 2004 and this latest change sort of seals the deal for LTE in the band. 

FCC release here.

 

Dispatch magazine has a handy chart showing previous 800MHz allocation per initial FCC rules…

  The FCC has a handy chart showing the post July 2004 reconfiguration…

 Difference is everyone gets shuffled like public safety agencies to their own band etc…Sprint gets shuffled into the ESMR section. Note there is a little overlap here between US 800MHz and European spectrum at 791MHz-821MHz but it is a head fake. Due to DL and UL mismatches (The Euro band UL is opposite the US DL spectrum and offset only TDD would be possible so more changes to standards would be required.

 

Chart via 3g4gblogspot.com 

Ultimately a win for Sprint economically but for end users not so much, as the changes don’t go far enough to help the global LTE roaming situation. Release 10 may help with that situation a bit as operators look at using spectrum aggregation and will bump into hard choices in RF hardware for devices. This limitation will tend to encourage more cooperation globally if RF chipsets go down the path of fewer SKUs as they have been tending to do.

One other point, in reading through the changes, it looks like public safety can use the 800MHz for LTE too if they cooperate and aggregate spectrum.

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