Sprint Says Mobile 5G Network to Launch 1H of 2019

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On the company’s quarterly conference call following its earnings release last week, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will launch its nationwide 5G mobile network in the first half of 2019. If everything goes as planned, Sprint will be the first of the four major U.S. wireless carriers to offer 5G mobile connectivity.

T-Mobile USA Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) has said it will begin rolling out its 5G network next year and complete the project by 2020. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is offering mobile 5G service in about 12 cities this year and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is launching fixed 5G service in a handful of U.S. cities this year.

Sprint owns more sub-6 GHz spectrum than any other carrier and has reached an agreement with handset chip maker Qualcomm to release the new chipset by the end of this year. Combined with an aggressive plan to deploy 40,000 outdoor small-cell and other new hardware, Sprint will put new antennas on its cell towers that can be upgraded by software when the 5G NR standard is finally released.

What that means, according to Claure, is that Sprint will be able to boost its pricing:

It’s going to be very difficult for our competitors to increase the price of unlimited, but we’re going to have a lot of room to increase our price of unlimited to get to similar prices as Verizon and AT&T in the future. You get that by having that amazing network. You get that by being the first one to launch 5G. So we’re looking at 5G as an amazing opportunity for the company not only for the position of the company, but also to charge for the blazing fast speeds.

Claure continued:

So, when you look at all that, there’s absolutely no reason why we should be discounting of Verizon and AT&T and T-Mobile, which is what we do today. So, we look at it as the best is yet to come as it relates to a great product, and for us to be pricing similar to our competitors in the future. Now in the meantime we’re going to continue to be the price leader until we roll out our 5G network, and you’re going to potentially see some modest price increases in the next year, but nothing substantial.

Sprint, which reported earnings Friday morning, was one of only a few stocks to escape Friday’s bloodbath. The shares added more than 5% to close at $5.36 in a 52-week range of $4.91 to $9.44. The 12-month consensus price target on the stock is $7.28.