It sure looks like clear skies for Sprint’s ambitious LTE network plans. The federal agency in charge of regulating wireless transmissions, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to eliminate technical restrictions on the use of the 800mhz frequency band. This means mobile operators like Sprint can use this spectrum for both LTE (long term evolution high speed wireless) and 3G services. The FCC decision was unanimous. Holders of the 800MHz Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) licenses definitely have reason to rejoice since up until now, rigid channel spacing rules have restricted wireless operations on the 800MHz band to only 2G services.
The biggest winner of this FCC decision is Sprint Nextel. It has already announced its plans to deploy an LTE network using its 800MHz spectrum allocation by 2014. Currently, the company is using this spectrum allocation for its soon to be phased out iDEN network. Sprint’s plan is quite ambitious involving pouring billions into the network upgrade. Previously, Sprint announced that the company had gotten 3GPP certification to reuse its 800MHz spectrum for LTE use.
The technical limitations done away with by the FCC decision actually predate Sprint’s merger with Nextel back in 2005. Given the scope of Sprint’s LTE plans and wide network, this FCC decision is a victory not just for the massive telecom company but also for wireless customers looking forward to LTE’s promised DSL level speeds in a wireless environment. While it is easy to get caught up in the hype of LTE’s promises, it is indisputable that given the increased consumer demand for wireless bandwidth triggered by the huge popularity of tablet devices like the iPad, wireless technology is fast evolving to meet consumer content demands. It seems that when it comes to communication technology, just when you thought the infrastructure is “overbuilt” to handle content transmission requirements, consumer tastes and expectations change to push infrastructure providers to step up their offerings. We’re seeing that now in wireless and given the evolution of the market thus far, it would probably be safe to bet that we ain’t seen nothing yet.