Altice's 19K Long Island Small Cells Aren't Boosting Sprint's Network, Analyst Says

New Street Research claims that cable company’s densification efforts have had little impact on wireless operator's local network performance
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The MVNO arrangement between Altice USA and Sprint is unique, in that the cable operator owns an increasing amount of the wireless network as it continuously builds out infrastructure.

But while the 19,000 small cells deployed by Altice USA in the Long Island area may be effectively reducing the cable operator’s reliance on the MVNO for its nascent mobile service, the agreement is not helping Sprint’s network performance, New Street Research analyst Spencer Kurn said in a report to investors published Tuesday.

Citing results from a survey of 1,000 local customers, as well as data from network testing outfit Tutela, Kurn wrote, “The network is disappointing. Based on the Tutela data and our own speed tests, it doesn’t seem like the deployment of 19,000 small cells has improved Sprint’s network much. There is little evidence of improvement year over year; Sprint’s network in Long Island appears worse than in the rest of the country, and Sprint still lags the other national carriers in Long Island.

“Sprint’s network has always lagged the other three carriers in terms of network performance,” Kurn added. “The primary reason has been the amount of low frequency spectrum they have and the amount of nodes. We had thought that Altice deploying 19,000 small cells would really close the gap, but the data doesn’t show that. Sprint still lags other carriers by a pretty wide margin.”

Tough zoning laws have traditionally made Long Island a difficult market for wireless operators to increase network capacity. And Kurn conceded that at least to some degree, Altice’s small cells must be enhancing Sprint’s network.

“But it’s very possible the absence of the low-frequency spectrum really limits the range of Sprint’s network,” he said. The small cells aren’t going to improve that that much. It’s still disadvantaged from a coverage perspective.”

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