Sprint CTO hints at ‘1 Gbps class speed’ in 2017, in challenge to T-Mobile

Sprint’s CTO said the carrier expects to unveil technologies that would allow it to offer “1 Gbps class speed” on its network in 2017. The comments are notable considering T-Mobile’s CTO made similar promises this week.

“In 2017 we expect to unveil some innovative work with 256 QAM and Massive MIMO pushing 1 Gbps class speed boundaries, all on our licensed spectrum,” Sprint CTO John Saw wrote on the carrier’s website. “This will be an important demonstration with speed as a proxy for capacity showcasing the incredible potential of our deep 2.5 GHz spectrum position.”

Saw didn’t provide details.

However, Saw’s comments appear to set the stage for a race between T-Mobile and Sprint to offer commercial 1 Gbps speeds sometime in 2017. Indeed, just this week T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said that the carrier recently conducted tests showing 979 Mbps speeds on its LTE network using 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM on an unreleased handset. “This is the fastest speed possible on a mobile device today and T-Mobile will absolutely be first to Gigabit speeds!” Ray wrote on T-Mobile’s website.

That wasn’t the first time Ray has promised to surpass the 1 Gbps threshold on T-Mobile’s LTE network. In October, Ray suggested the carrier plans to offer data transmissions “approaching gigabit LTE speeds” in at least some markets in 2017.

Related: Meet the CTOs in wireless: Sprint’s John Saw

In his post on Sprint’s website, Saw also boasted of reports detailing improvements to Sprint’s network. He also said Sprint’s three-channel carrier aggregation (3CA) technology is available in more than 100 markets today, and “we’ll continue to expand our deployment.”

He added that Sprint has made progress on its “densification and optimization” strategy. Specifically, he said Sprint is “very encouraged... following our deployment of 200 small cells in Manhattan.” He said the rollout there boosted median download speeds by 43 percent and median upload speeds by 56 percent.

T-Mobile and Sprint have been busy during 2016 in efforts to improve their networks in order to position their offerings as comparable to heavyweights AT&T and Verizon. Sprint, for its part, has been working to build out operations in its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings, radio waves that don’t travel as far as lower spectrum bands but support faster speeds. Alternatively, T-Mobile has been expanding its coverage footprint through deployments in its 700 MHz low-band spectrum. And Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as Verizon and AT&T, have been deploying new technologies like carrier aggregation to speed up speeds on their respective LTE networks.