Sprint turns on 5G in four more markets

Sprint today launched what it calls “true 5G” in four more markets: Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix. The launch follows earlier commercial releases in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City.

This time, Nokia is getting in on the action. In those previous markets, Sprint launched with gear from Ericsson and in the case of Chicago, Samsung Networks.  

At the foundation of Sprint’s 5G is Massive MIMO, which can dramatically improve network capacity. In Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., Sprint is using 64T64R (64 transmitters 64 receivers) 5G Massive MIMO radios from Nokia. The radios support a feature called split-mode that enables Sprint to simultaneously deliver LTE Advanced and 5G New Radio (NR) service.

"We are delighted to partner with Sprint to support the launch of 5G in some of their largest markets," said Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri in a statement. "We have long collaborated on the deployment of our Massive MIMO and 5G innovations, and it’s exciting to see our joint work come to fruition. The cities we’re launching today are among the largest and most dense urban markets in the U.S., requiring significant expertise and stringent testing to ensure quality, performance and delivery."

Sprint is using its 2.5 GHz spectrum for the 5G Massive MIMO radios, which are deployed on Sprint’s existing 4G cell sites, providing what it says is a nearly identical footprint for both 2.5 GHz LTE and 5G NR coverage.

Sprint pointed to Ookla Speedtest Intelligence data showing its average 5G download speed is 203.8 Mbps—nearly six times faster than Sprint’s average LTE download speed of 35.2 Mbps. Of course, that's not exactly a fully loaded network, and time will tell how the speeds shake out if more users join the network, but it's promising.

Sprint also announced its fourth 5G device, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which features a triple camera including an ultra-wide angle lens, 3X optical zoom and a pop-up camera. Its other 5G devices include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G and HTC 5G Hub.

RELATED: Sprint touts launch of ‘True 5G’ across Chicago

Sprint CTO John Saw told reporters that it is continuing to expand its 5G coverage in previously launched 5G markets. Sprint's 5G now covers about 2,100 square miles, with about 11 million people expected to be covered in total across all nine market areas in the coming weeks.

Sprint is selling an “Unlimited Premium” service for $80 per month. The operator also collaborated with cloud gaming company Hatch to offer a game-streaming experience that it says is unrivaled; customers can get a three-month subscription to Hatch Premium on Sprint 5G smartphones.

Even with the hype around its 5G service, Sprint didn’t miss an opportunity to mention how it continues to advocate for a merger with T-Mobile to “accelerate the deployment of a ubiquitous, nationwide 5G network that includes coverage in rural locations.”

"We’re proud to give Sprint customers their first truly mobile 5G experience in some of the biggest cities in the U.S.," said Sprint CEO Michel Combes in the press release. "With our initial nine market launches complete, it is just the start of what we can achieve with T-Mobile, together building a better, faster, nationwide mobile 5G network that benefits all U.S. businesses and consumers."

FierceWireless Associate Editor Bevin Fletcher contributed to this report.