Motorola is showing off its Moto Z 2017 flagship, and Sprint is using it to show off its upcoming Gigabit LTE service.

Motorola isn’t being particularly secretive about its upcoming Moto Z flagship, largely because, thanks to restrictions in its size and shape due to the company’s commitment to Moto Mods, we basically know what it will look like.

The first clue was at the company’s recent MWC press conference, where the phone was basically shown off during a tease of upcoming Moto Mods. Recall the following photo of the forthcoming Gamepad Moto Mod. That’s no Moto G5, nor is it a mistake; it’s the Moto Z 2017, newly-shaped fingerprint sensor and all.

And this week, Sprint and Motorola teamed up to show off the network’s upcoming Gigabit LTE service in the New Orleans area. During a New Orleans Pelicans vs. Toronto Raptors basketball game (which my home team won, btw!), the carrier showed off the service to select analysts on a Motorola device running the upcoming Gigabit LTE-capable Snapdragon 835 chipset.

As you can tell, the Motorola phone has no particular shape in that photo, as its aesthetic is being constrained by a boxy cover and tapes around the edges. A Sprint release also acknowledges the collaboration:

Motorola showcased the blazing-fast, high-bandwidth capability of a forthcoming flagship smartphone based on the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 mobile platform with an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, supporting Gigabit Class LTE.

Sprint says that it used a combination of “three-channel carrier aggregation and 60 MHz of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum in combination with 4X4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and 256-QAM higher order modulation to achieve incredible Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network.” In other words, the carrier is finally making good use of its extensive high-band spectrum — the same stuff is tried to make work on WiMAX a few years ago — for what is potentially the fastest live network performance in the U.S. right now.

Sprint says that by working with Qualcomm it plans to increase the capacity on its existing LTE network “to build a strong foundation for 5G by densifying its network with the addition of small cells and smart antennas.” That’s because 2.5Ghz spectrum doesn’t penetrate through walls very well, and needs to be amplified using such small cells and beam-forming antennas to provide optimal performance in places like stadiums, parks and in dense urban areas.

The carrier rightly claims that it has the most spectrum of any big network in the U.S., though the vast majority is in that upper-tier area that’s relatively difficult to utilize for high-speed mobility. In its press release, the company took a jab at T-Mobile’s plan to augment its network capacity with unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz space, claiming that “Sprint has more licensed spectrum capacity to deploy Gigabit Class LTE than any other U.S. carrier. Use of licensed spectrum offers Sprint LTE Plus customers a more reliable and sustainable quality experience by not relying on unlicensed resources that might be available at some times and not at others.”

Whatever the case, one thing is relatively clear: this year’s Moto Z flagship won’t be a Verizon exclusive, and Sprint is racing to ensure that it stays competitive with T-Mobile, AT&T and Big Red in the network speed game.



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