sprintSprint customers will have access to 5G ‘like’ capabilities as early as April, the wireless carrier announced today. Sprint joins all major wireless carriers in making 5G announcements of late, hoping to claim some form of ‘first 5G’ perception in an ongoing 5G public relations race. This week’s Mobile World Congress is helping fuel ‘5G first’ pronouncements.

Customers in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles will experience significant increases in data speed and capacity, as Sprint rolls out advanced Massive MIMO networking technology. Sprint will expand to additional markets including Atlanta, Houston and Washington, D.C. later this year. In 2018 and 2019 Sprint expects to deploy thousands of Massive MIMO radios, significantly increasing network capacity for millions of customers across the country, the company announced today.

Sprint 5G Roadmap
Massive MIMO is a critical bridge to Sprint’s 5G network, according to the company. This technology is designed to enable new levels of innovation and progress including cloud robotics, telemedicine, connected cars and drones, as well as augmented and virtual reality.

Sprint’s 5G-ready Massive MIMO cell sites are capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems, significantly increasing data speeds for more customers in high-traffic locations.

Sprint will deploy 64T64R (64 transmit, 64 receive) Massive MIMO radios using 128 antennas working with technology leaders Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung Electronics. The Massive MIMO radios from all three suppliers are software-upgradable to 5G without additional tower climbs. The Massive MIMO radios support split-mode service, enabling Sprint to offer both 4G LTE and 5G on the same radio.

According to the carrier, all Sprint customers using a 2.5 GHz (band 41) device will benefit from the increased capacity and speed provided by Massive MIMO. In addition, Sprint is working with Qualcomm, and device manufacturers to launch 5G mobile devices in the first half of 2019.

“Today’s announcement is a huge step toward Sprint being first to offer a 5G mobile network,” said Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, in a prepared statement. “We’re making significant investments using state-of-the-art technology; and working with leading chip and handset partners to deliver an incredible Next-Gen Network for our customers.”