Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sprint and its wireless service

I just saw where Sprint added and enhanced LTE data access in a number of markets:

-- Baraboo, Wis. -- Kokomo, Ind.
-- Beaver Dam, Wis. -- Laredo, Texas
-- Brownsville/Harlingen, Texas -- Lebanon, Pa.
-- Bronx/Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Morgan City, La.
-- Columbus, Miss. -- Nacogdoches, Texas
-- Daytona Beach, Fla. -- Nashville, Tenn.
-- Durham, N.C. -- Oakland, Calif.
-- Dyersburg, Tenn. -- Ocala, Fla.
-- Faribault/Northfield, Minn. -- Palm Coast, Fla.
-- Fayetteville, N.C. -- Philadelphia
-- Fitchburg/Leominster, Mass. -- Ponca City, Okla.
-- Flint, Mich. -- Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda, Fla.
-- Fort Lauderdale/Pompano -- Portland, Ore.
Beach/Deerfield Beach, Fla. -- Rocky Mount, N.C.
-- Grand Rapids, Mich. -- Saginaw, Mich.
-- Greenville, N.C. -- Salinas, Calif.
-- Greenwood, Miss. -- Springfield, Mass.
-- Holland, Mich. -- Tulsa, Okla.
-- Homosassa Springs, Fla. -- Tupelo, Miss.
-- Jackson, Tenn. -- Wausau, Wis.
-- Jacksonville, Fla. -- Wilson, N.C.

I hope it works well.  I actually tried the LTE service on the edges of Philadelphia back in June, as I have their Tri-Fi mobile hotspot.  I finally had to turn off LTE access because it wasn't yet stable enough and WiMAX was at around 10 Mbps and I didn't need anything slower.

I'm interested to know why they picked Homasassa Springs, FL or Kokomo, IN.  I'm sure some of the other locations would be interesting, also but then, their previous choices seemed odd, as well.  I suspect the whole industry is looking for easier places to start, to diagnose before they really get the complex and difficult areas ready.

Meanwhile, they've disabled iDEN, which is a good thing, as they have two bands for LTE and one band for WiMAX at the moment.  As WiMAX fades away next year, they'll have 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz, and 2.5 GHz for LTE.  That will give them both building penetration and reach.  My Tri-Fi mobile hotspot uses 1.9 GHz for LTE and 2.5 GHz for WiMAX, so it will definitely be outdated once they've finished.

It's amazing how things have changed since 2006.  Sprint was the 3G data leader then but handling Nextel became a huge problem that has only been resolved a couple of weeks ago.  Of course, there weren't a bunch of smart phones back then.  Only HandSpring/Palm's Treo line really worked well and there were no substantial subsidies, so only the determined would buy a smart phone then.

Now, the lines are clogged because everyone seems to need a smart phone.  Sprint has way too many MVNOs on their network, as well.  A few people have gone to other carriers but the exodus has apparently not been massive and they were reporting quite a few smart phone users in the recent, closed quarter.
Eighty-six percent of quarterly Sprint platform postpaid handset sales were smartphones, including approximately 1.4 million iPhones® sold during the quarter. Forty-one percent of iPhone sales were to new customers.
Unfortunately, I don't see them expanding the network at a similar pace.  Of course, had they been using the money from contracts to expand the network as they went along, they would have been in such bad shape.  Of course, a lot of the money went to Nextel problems.  I wonder how much more, if any, the Nextel customers would have complained if Nextel went out of business on its own, without Sprint to keep it going.  I suspect that would have been better for Sprint and Sprint customers.

Of course, the 78% buyout of Sprint by SoftBank should help the acceleration of network improvements and buying ClearWire should help that company focus their attention toward the network and not selling their services.

I'm still trying to decide whether to remain with Sprint.  I started with them in September of 2000 and it's only been the last 5 years that I've had doubts, but especially since they started handling Apple's iPhone, as the data usage has ballooned but not the hardware capacity to handle all the extra data requests.

Their customer service people seem willing to help but their technical staff seem unwilling.  As I find it difficult to use a network that churns away just to retrieve e-mail, they try to avoid acknowledging the problem using any method possible.

They even offered me a device which connected to a wired internet connection.  When I asked how it was going to correct their connection, they sounded upset.  So, I asked if they were going to provide the wired internet connection, and of course, they declined.

I haven't talked to any of the technical people recently but they ought to offer me the fancy US$59.95 cradle with the extra antennae and 5 dB gain improvement.  That would not have helped me way back when because I was tethering with my phone, not having the mobile hotspot device.

I hope the extra money will cause them to flourish again.

Update: I've been on the road recently in August, mostly across I-40 west of Memphis, Tennessee, and at Barstow, up to San Jose, California.  I have yet to see any evidence of LTE working, even in San Jose 95131.  My first six hours there, WiMAX was working quite well, and then, it was 0-1 bars the rest of the time, even after they closed the ticket.  3G worked, but it was overloaded.  Since my Tri-Fi device does 1900 MHz LTE, that should have shown up, if they've really pushed it out.

I haven't found anywhere things were great but WiMAX was fine in Flagstaff, Arizona and Amarillo, Texas.  Other places, like Barstow didn't even have WiMAX and will probably be a while to get LTE.

Update 2013.09.28: I was in Muncie, Indiana and I had a chance to check their LTE service not far from Ball State University.  AT&T added LTE service there last year and Sprint added LTE service earlier this year.  Maybe, it's the mobile hotspot device or the 1900 MHz frequency, but I was about 150 feet from a main road and just barely inside a building, but neither the download or upload speed exceeded 4 Mbps.  That's not good.  In July 2012, when I tried Verizon's LTE over a mobile hotspot, I didn't think it was very good at just over 5.5 Mbps because I was getting roughly 3 Mbps from Sprint's 3G network at the time.  I can't imagine that every student in Muncie switched to have LTE, but it certainly seemed overloaded.  It wasn't even that bad in Indianapolis when it was only 30% covered.  A couple of weeks later, I was in downtown Indianapolis waiting for an event and I wanted to download something large.  Their LTE was at 0.75 Mbps on the test I ran.  After notifying Sprintcare, they told me that two towers were having issues, putting stress on the tower I was using.

Update 2013.10.29: Sprint entered 42 new markets, I believe, in just about every state.  They picked some odd locations, again.  I thought it was great that they chose Fort Smith, Arkansas, as I'd been there in August.  I thought it was odd that they added LTE in Odessa, but not Midland, Texas as they had covered both towns with WiMAX in the early stages.  They also mentioned that they enhanced coverage in Queensborough, New York City, NY, which is a great thing but it's not helping me.

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