We heard that AT&T was planning to use small, short-range cell sites to help boost its network capacity earlier this week, and now Sprint's confirmed that it plans to use similar technology as it builds out its LTE network in 2013 and 2014. GigaOM reports that Sprint's VP of network development and engineering Iyad Tarazi confirmed that the company plans to deploy "tens of thousands" of high capacity cells in highly trafficked areas.
Sprint's small cell rollout will take place in three phases — for starters, the company is putting extra effort into deploying femtocells (personal network extenders often used in homes or businesses) at customer's request, with plans to use them in public places for boosting coverage as well. Then, in 2013, Sprint will deploy its array of picocells (small base stations that can be mounted on walls or poles) in high traffic areas like stadiums and airports, with each site supporting between 100 and 200 picocells.
Finally, in late 2013 and 2014, Sprint will start moving picocells outdoors, in heavily crowded urban areas with lots of pedestrian traffic. Tarazi reportedly didn't give specifics on where exactly these picocells would be deployed, but it sounds like major downtown areas in large cities is the target. It sounds like an ambitious plan, but it's not clear yet that this is the most effective way for Sprint to increase its network capacity. That said, it's a strategy that multiple carriers are embracing. In addition to AT&T's recent plans, T-Mobile CEO Phillip Humm said on a CTIA panel that the carrier uses small cell technology to help manage bandwidth — this seems like a technology we'll be hearing about as the carriers continue to rollout new networks.