Sprint Might Have an Opportunty with its Clearwire Spectrum

Sprint owns the most spectrum of any mobile service provider in the U.S. market, a fact most observers expect will play a role in an anticipated Sprint assault on the U.S. market leaders. 

Some observers, though, will note there are advantages and disadvantages for the 2.5-GHz Clearwire spectrum.

The higher frequency means signal reach is less than at 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequencies that Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless have in greater abundance. Signals at 2.5 GHz do not penetrate walls as well as the lower frequencies, either.

In terms of network infrastructure, that lessened propagation distance means Sprint needs 13 to 15 tower sites, at 2.5 GHz, to cover the same area as a single 700-MHz macrocell.

On the other hand, precisely because of the higher frequency, 2.5-GHz signals are capable of delivering more data, compared to 700 MHz or 800 MHz signals, using any particular coding technique. As a rough rule of thumb, 2.5-GHz networks, using the same coding, can deliver as much as three times to four times more data, using the same bandwidth as a 700-MHz or 800-MHz signal. 

But there are some new variables, including the tendency for users to consume as much as 80 percent of their smart phone or tablet data at home, when they are able to use fixed network Wi-Fi. 

Also, in some cases, as in dense urban environments, it might be quite feasible to use small cells or Wi-Fi to offload even much out of home data consumption. 

So except in rural areas where signal reach is a real advantage, Sprint might find its high-bandwidth network very useful in urban areas, which increasingly are seeing scenarios where small cells covering small distances are quite useful. 

At least in principle, Sprint might be able to use its trove of spectrum to provide the "fastest" service in many areas, if not perhaps ubiquitously across the country. The reason is simple: Long Term Evolution is limited principally by the amount of bandwidth allocated for it. 

Channels of 20 MHz provide much faster experiences than channels of 10 MHz, for example. 

SoftBank might also be able to bundle applications (especially video-related apps) with its faster access in ways that create uniqueness, much as Dish Network is expected to emphasize video entertainment as a distinguishing feature of its would-be LTE network as well. 
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