NEW YORK—Sprint wireless customers in Brooklyn and Bronx will have 4G internet service starting on July 30.
The company also made improvements to its 3G network by upgrading existing rooftop cellular sites. Customers without 4G-capable devices will receive enhanced 3G service as part of the latest upgrade. Sprint currently has 21 4G-capable devices.
Sprint has more than a thousand rooftop cellular sites in the borough and customers can already pick up 4G service in Midtown, on the Upper West Side, and the Upper East Side. The launch of the enhanced service is part of Sprint’s coast-to-coast network upgrade, which brings multiple wireless technologies into one network under its “Network Vision” plan.
Verizon and AT&T already have 4G service available citywide. Yet, unlike Verizon and AT&T, Sprint offers an unlimited data plan and guarantees lifetime unlimited data to all users who sign up while the offer is active.
Sprint has had difficulty installing rooftop cellular sites downtown, due to a tangle of landlords, cable providers, and city regulators, among others.
“There are a lot of logistical complexities when you are in a dense urban environment,” Joe Meyer, vice president of network service management at Sprint, said.
How It Works
On a July 25 press tour, Meyer explained how the equipment that carries Sprint’s voice and data signals works. The antennas, which are set up on the corners of the Holiday Inn on W. 57th St., beam signal covering a cone-shaped area in the buildings, streets, and sidewalks below. The antennas are hooked up to radio heads which operate at different frequencies and send the signal to the antennas.
The radio heads are hooked up to what Meyer called the “brains” of the cellular site, a metal case where several switches for 3G and 4G data and voice service are stacked. The data from this stack is routed via two thin fiber-optic wires to what Meyer referred to as the “backhaul,” a unit that connects the cell site to Time Warner’s cabling which ultimately connects the cellular site with Sprint’s internet switches, or “backbones.” A backup battery unit nearby can keep the cell site running for approximately four to eight hours in case of a power outage.
Wireless carriers rent rooftop sites like the one atop the Holiday Inn to install cell sites. The figures for rentals vary and Meyer said they are not usually disclosed.
“It like renting a nice apartment,” Meyer said. “This is prime real estate, right?”