Sprint dodged questions about the future of its Magic Box small cells in the event a proposed merger with T-Mobile US is approved, even as it announced a deal to deploy the technology across dozens of buildings in the city of Pittsburgh.
Under the agreement, Sprint will light up the small cells in 100 buildings around the city to provide connectivity for a deployment of smart plugs from IoT energy management company BOSS Controls. The connected plugs will enable the city to monitor and schedule power to devices to cut down on excess use and yield energy cost savings.
The deployment comes as part of a multi-year plan to launch 1 million Magic Box units to enhance Sprint’s 2.5GHz coverage. In February, Sprint said it had already rolled out 80,000 units and by May said 200,000 units were distributed in more than 200 US cities.
A Sprint representative told Mobile World Live 2.5GHz spectrum would play an “important” role in a post-merger network, but declined to comment on the fate of the Magic Box specifically.
In April, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said the combined network would consist of 85,000 macro sites and 50,000 small cells. However, Sievert did not specify whether Sprint’s Magic Box small cells were included in that number.
There is, however, reason to believe the product could survive the tie-up.
In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, Sprint noted its 2.5GHz spectrum has difficulty penetrating buildings. Though the operator covers around 302 million points-of-presence (PoPs) with its network, it said only around 133 million PoPs are covered by in-building 2.5GHz.
With the Magic Box, Sprint said it can provide indoor 2.5GHz coverage across a range of up to 30,000 square feet, meaning the product could be a convenient way for the merged company to fill in-building coverage gaps.