Sprint earlier this week announced a series of recent massive MIMO tests with Samsung in South Korea. But Sprint COO of Technology Guenther Ottendorfer, who was in Asia for the tests, told Wireless Week on Thursday that the trip served another purpose as well: to rally support for Band 41 as a key 5G frequency.
Ottendorfer said Sprint met with a number of companies, including Samsung, Huawei, LG, ZTE, and TCL, to reiterate its plans to launch 5G services on 2.5 GHz airwaves.
“The important thing with those meetings is, I tend to meet our suppliers at Mobile World Congress, but there you are kind of one of many operators that talks with them. These are more focused visits, where we have the opportunity to discuss specifically how do we drive forward Band 41, HPUE, how do we get prepared for 5G,” Ottendorfer said.
Sprint executives have long touted the carrier’s treasure trove of 2.5 GHz spectrum as ideally suited to become the new “low-band” spectrum in a 5G world. Last month, Sprint followed up with an announcement that it is working with parent company SoftBank and chip giant Qualcomm to deploy commercial 5G services and devices in Band 41 by late 2019.
The trip was an opportunity for Sprint to show handset vendors it means business and align with them on 5G timelines and roadmaps, Ottendorfer said.
“I think they’re very much on board,” Ottendorfer noted. “But they try to always get confirmation whether the carrier is really pushing that, and whether you are really behind that.”
Ottendorfer said Sprint is looking to gigabit LTE as a stepping stone on the way to 5G, and noted that the development of gigabit capable handsets was also on the discussion agenda.
Those devices will be key, especially since Sprint is planning to follow up on its 32×32 massive MIMO tests with Samsung with trials of 64×64 massive MIMO in the near future. Ottendorfer said he expects 64X64 MIMO trials will head to the field this year, with network deployments following sometime down the line in 2018.