Sprint says its wireless network in the Kansas City area will speed up by Halloween.
The Overland Park-based carrier announced upgrades and demonstrated their impact in a suite at Kauffman Stadium before Wednesday’s Royals game. All area Sprint customers should expect to see benefits from Sprint’s use of technology it calls three-carrier aggregation being added at hundreds of cell sites this month and next.
“They will get a much better data experience,” said John Saw, Sprint’s chief technology officer. “Higher speeds, lower latency and much better performance.”
Mobile phones and tablets consume data when they stream videos, download apps, upload photos and perform many of their other popular features. Sprint’s three-carrier aggregation essentially triples the amount of data-carrying wireless spectrum its national 4G LTE network currently offers consumers.
Sprint’s announcement comes after its larger rival Verizon announced its LTE Advanced network was running nationally. Verizon’s faster LTE network uses carrier aggregation techniques to combine blocks of spectrum.
Carrier aggregation at Sprint involves layers of identical spectrum, much of which it has been slow to deploy.
Sprint’s national LTE network runs on one block of its high capacity wireless spectrum. Last November, it added a second block through two-carrier aggregation under the brand LTE Plus.
The Kansas City upgrade involves adding a third block of that spectrum, essentially tripling the amount of wireless spectrum available to carry customers’ downloads, videos streams and other uses. Sprint said its three-carrier aggregation will operate under the LTE Plus brand but at faster speeds, with quicker initial responses or better latency and greater reliability.
“All of these things will be needed for the coming wave of data growth with our customers,” said Günther Ottendorfer, Sprint’s chief operating officer for technology.
Experts often describe wireless networks’ use of spectrum as similar to building a road. Adding spectrum adds more lanes to handle more wireless data traffic. It allows faster speeds with less congestion on the network.
Sprint’s local upgrade will emerge essentially as crews complete work on each of roughly 300 towers over the next two months and expand through work on additional sites beyond Halloween.
Wednesday’s demonstration included five cellphone models that can tap into Sprint’s three-carrier aggregation enhancement. Saw said buyers of those devices will enjoy the most benefits but others also will see gains as the extra lanes help move traffic out of the lanes their phones reach.
To demonstrate the impact of three-carrier aggregation, Sprint ran speed tests in its Kauffman suite. One phone ran on the single-carrier LTE network configuration, one on its two-carrier LTE Plus network and the third on its three-carrier configuration.
Peak download speeds tested using Ookla’s app advanced from 66.73 Mbps, or megabits per second, with one-carrier, to 149.87 Mbps with two-carrier and 221.85 Mbps using three-carrier.
The demonstration also included mobile delivery of 4K video, which is beyond traditional high-definition quality, and 360-degree video through Samsung Galaxy phones and virtual reality headsets.
Consumers shouldn’t expect those peak speeds, nor would they need them, Saw said. Mobile devices do everything they do with about 10 Mbps speeds or less. He said demonstrating the much higher peak speeds shows that the upgraded network will have the capacity to provide customers all the data speed and other performance they will need in the future.
Saw said the improved performance also relies on other technologies, including beam forming that can concentrate a cell site’s signals to accommodate a large gathering of users nearby and arrays of eight transmitters and eight receivers that make the beam forming possible.