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Summary:

Sprint CTO Stephen Bye didn’t want to say what he had to promise Apple in exchange for getting the iPhone 5 with LTE when quizzed about it at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2012 conference. Instead, he said that Sprint isn’t all that concerned about the spectrum crisis.

The spectrum crisis is a bit like peak oil: you can either call for more drilling, or build more efficient cars. That was one of the points made during Sprint CTO Stephen Bye’s fireside chat at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2012 conference in San Francisco Thursday. Asked about his competitors’ calls for more spectrum, Bye said: “Could we do with more spectrum? Absolutely. We could do with more crude oil.” But right now, Sprint is focused on repurposing its existing resources.

One of these efforts is already underway as part of Sprint’s Network Vision initiative, which involves repurposing the carrier’s old 2G frequencies for its LTE network. “We definitely want to take advantage of the spectrum we have,” said Bye.

Sprint is also looking at new technologies like small cells, but Bye cautioned his audience not to get too enthusiastic about these smaller cells that could one day augment or even replace the traditional network infrastructure. “In theory, it looks great,” he said, but added that it’s not just about solving technical problems. “The challenge is the physical deployment of these,” explained Bye.

Bye’s appearance at Mobilize came with an interesting timing: The company is getting the iPhone 5 with LTE this week, beating both T-Mobile as well as European carriers to the punch. Asked what Sprint had to promise Apple to get access to the device, Bye just smiled – and instead took the opportunity to poke fun of his competitors data plans for the new device: “We look at shared plans as plans that were architected by engineers and accountants,” he quipped.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.

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  1. The Carriers can manage the spectrum issue a LOT better if they really want to.

    Charging per byte of data is inefficient. Why does a byte of data during peak hours cost the same as a byte of data in the middle of the night? Answer: because consumers are letting the Carriers get away with charging prime-time rates during off-peak hours. Somebody needs to disrupt this model.

    Remember when long distance phone calls used to be expensive? A lot of consumers waited until after 10pm or midnight to make their calls because the rates were cheaper. The telcos were happy because it focused the prime-time usage of limited network resources on lucrative business customers.

    Bottom line: the operators know how to influence usage and operate much more effectively than they are now. They aren’t doing so because we’re allowing ourselves to be gouged. If data usage between midnight and 7:00am were half price, a good chunk of peak traffic would move off peak (people who want to download videos, etc.). Applications can make this very easy for the consumer, e.g., “download this movie for me during off-peak hours”

    1. I’ve always been one for unlimited offerings, but with that said, in a spectrum crunch, I am also about fair flexibility. Plans that offer things like earlier night and weekends is a plus, but why not offer plans like that for data? Get 5GB or 10GB bucket during the peak times per month 7AM to 7PM, speeds slowed to a still usable speed after that…but remain unlimited 7PM to 7AM and on weekends. What about plans that offer you to select the time that you want to use the most data. In some countries, carriers offer YOU to select the time frame that you have unlimited calls, ie 9AM-3PM and the rest of the day the calls are charged at peak rates until midnight – 6AM. Things like that can be used with data as well.

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