VP Sprint, technology development and corporate strategy: “Three largest economies in the world embrace Band 41 and represent 2bn potential subs”

Ron Marquardt, vice president of Sprint, technology development and corporate strategy is delivering a keynote address of Day Two of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Ahead of the show we speak to him about how China’s adoption of Band 41 affects the TD-LTE eco-system, and find out how Sprint responds to rival claims that its support of unlimited data is untenable.

What is the current road map for competing with the LTE network of the other major telcos in the US?

All major carriers in the US have been deploying LTE aggressively across multiple frequency bands. We have been and continue to deploy LTE across three different frequency bands within the Sprint network, including 800MHz, 1900MHz and 2.5GHz. This provides customers with a great combination of 4G coverage and capacity.  We are deploying both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE, and with the combination of the bands provide a benefit which is greater than the sum of the parts.

Last year China chose Band 41 for TD-LTE.  What impact did that news have on the TD-LTE eco-system and specifically for Clearwire?

The Chinese government indeed adopted Band 41, specifying the 2.5 GHz spectrum allocation via the MIIT, the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. FCC, and this was announced by the MIIT’s vice minister at the ITU meeting in Dubai, October, 2012.  Sprint, SoftBank and Clearwire have all been very strong advocates for TDD-LTE for some time and now the three largest economies in the world all embrace Band 41 and represent nearly two billion potential subscribers.   We are working very closely with SoftBank to drive the ecosystem.

You have a lot of high frequency capacity spectrum. How will you be using other technologies, such as small cells, to supplement the network to enable greater coverage?

Small cells are just one tool, which we have as part of our network deployment and we will use whatever tools are available and cost effective to meet the needs of our customers. We have been deploying small cells for some time, ranging from residential femto-cells, enterprise femto-cells and pico-cells. The primary focus has been to address in-door coverage and capacity needs.

The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Click here to download a brochure for the event and here to register for a conference pass.

You have shut down iDEN to reduce network complexity but now operate both TD-LTE and FDD LTE networks.  To what extent does that increase complexity once again, and what is your roadmap for CDMA?

Having both FDD and TDD LTE does not complicate Sprint’s network the way iDEN did.  iDEN was a completely separate network with duplicate costs and management needs. We are repurposing the 800MHz spectrum that was being used for the Nextel Network to support CDMA and LTE.

How do you respond to rival’s claims that sticking with unlimited data plans will impact quality of experience?

Some people believe the ability to support unlimited is somehow related to physics. It is not clear which school of physics they believe is related to offering customers a better experience.  However, it is very clear our competitors are setting up toll booths and charging customers for their usage, while watching the meter and their cash registers turn over. I guess as their customer you can always choose to avoid the LTE toll roads they are building and stay on Wi-Fi. We take a very different approach.  We are focused on the needs of our customers and we listen to our customers. We actually encourage our customers to use our LTE network – unlimited is all about simplicity and convenience.

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