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Sprint to take its time over VoLTE

Sprint's VP of Tchnology, Ron Marquardt

Sprint’s VP of Technology Innovation and Architecture, Dr. Ron Marquardt, opened up LTE North America in Dallas today with a keynote speech offering up a full overview of the US telco’s LTE roll-out to date.

Marquart also highlighted the key areas Sprint is looking into at the moment to further advance its LTE network services, and addressed the next generation of enabling technologies, including self-organising networks, NFV and Cloud RAN.

“I think it’s very important for us as an industry to realise that we’ve made a lot of headway so far, but that there’s a lot of room to grow into as well,” he began, before highlighting where Sprint currently stands in the market.

According to Marquardt, Sprint is utilising a combination of new infrastructure hardware and software, while simultaneously repurposing existing spectrum to maximise coverage in the US. Citing VoLTE as a long-term aspiration, he also said Sprint already covers more than 540 cities and 260 million people with an HD Voice service, and is targeting a voice over wifi offering.

“The reason you don’t see us rushing to VoLTE is because we’ve already got a strong HD Voice programme, and we’re rolling out a VoWifi product offering too. Over time, we’ll be evolving to VoLTE, but less aggressively because we’ve got a successful technology.”

Marquardt also gave a glimpse into Sprint’s wifi strategy too, adding: “We see wifi as the fourth band. It’s about a seamless customer experience and the quality of service,” he said.

“At the moment it’s a standards thing, looking at interoperability, handover and so on. When we start looking at public venues, areas where we can provide some value above and beyond any local hotspot, we can add some value and deploy a footprint to add to the customer service, coverage and quality of service.”

In a quick-fire presentation giving a holistic view of LTE strategy, Marquardt shared insight into Sprint’s view of LTE-Advanced enabling technologies, which is being commonly referred to as Spark. Spark is an enhanced LTE technology and spectrum integration initiative, which combines Tri-band/HD voice devices, TDD, Carrier aggregation, MIMO and 8T8R.

Marquardt addresses the audience at LTE North America

Marquardt addresses the audience at LTE North America

“We have 2 carrier aggregation deployments live in the network at the moment, and we’re working on 3 more for next year. FDD/TDD combinations are something we’re looking at for spectrum optimisation, and something that will really benefit the customer experience.”

Looking towards the future, and the advancement of future LTE technology, Marquardt  highlighted SON, NFV and Cloud RAN as some of the key technologies being investigated by Sprint today.

“Some of the solutions around wireless backhaul, the network will have to self-organise. The NFV industry is moving in this direction, and we’re confident that our partners have the ability to make advancements in this,” he said.  “It’s more of a personnel challenge in getting folks from the IT environment to learn more about the networking side, and likewise for network engineers who don’t know so much about IT processes. It’s about getting NFV to develop and get value from it, otherwise it’s another investment that doesn’t pay off.”

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