Sprint CTO: Spectrum is like crude oil – you could always use more

Mobilize 2012 Stephen Bye Sprint

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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