Friday, February 21, 2014

Sprint, it's been a month (4 actually), where are the enhancements?

It's been a month since I got this on January 21.  I still have nothing to show for the poorer performance while they've been working on the network, although other areas 15-30 miles away already show that LTE is available.  I was in Connersville, Indiana earlier this week and, LTE was showing up there.  They were practically denied coverage at all previously, even though Sprint sold phones there.  What kind of company does that, and then, has the nerve to charge for roaming?

When I was in Eaton, Ohio earlier, I noticed that their LTE services have degraded dramatically to what should have been good 3G/EVDO speeds.  I was in Indianapolis, Indiana the other day and they've had their LTE upgrades for about 1 year and I was getting many timeouts.

The coverage map has changed, though the LTE indicator did not indicate LTE in some of the places.  In fact, actual coverage seems spotty, even in small towns, as though the equipment they're using isn't as powerful as the 3G/EVDO equipment they were previously using.

Closing from the west a while back
LTE stops close to the state line

The cows and horses really don't seem to have LTE available, as it wasn't indicated on the phone as I drove through that area.  As soon as I crossed the state line, though, the 5 bars turned to 1, then zero.  Obviously, LTE is closing in on the area but it's got some distance to go, and probably, a lot of time until it's really stable.

Of course, part of the problem is that Sprint is claiming that LTE is 10x faster than 3G.  Since their 3G speed is in the basement (0.10 Mbps?) many days, I guess 10x (1.0 Mbps) isn't out of reach.  If it's to be believed, the new AT&T/SBC said during their latest financial call that something like 97% of new phone purchases in the latest quarter were smart phones.  Maybe obviously, that would be a lot of potential data usage.

As I checked the coverage in rural Ohio near me (5 miles east?) in more detail, I discovered that they have Good and Fair ratings to LTE service--these were in the fair rating.  Is pathetic LTE coverage with little hope of better coverage better than no LTE coverage?

The PING response is slow but I can't complain otherwise
Update 2014.02.25: The downtrodden Trotwood, OH area (outside Dayton, OH) had substantial LTE today.  It's too bad nothing else is looking up in the area.

Update 2014.03.01: I was in the Sprint store today, trying to cancel the contract for my problematic Tri-Fi mobile hotspot.  They suggested that I call customer service, as they were not authorized.  When I was talking to the customer service representative about canceling, she said that it usually takes 30 days from the finish of the upgrades for things to show up.  Of course, I mentioned about the text message and how it's been 30 days.  Things may look better soon, but the mobile hotspot couldn't even connect partway through the day.

Verizon's LTE seems to be fine here
The odd thing is that I had the iPhone 5c reconfigured to allow the personal hotspot feature to work, and it was as smooth as silk.  However, I got a cheapo hotspot at the Verizon reseller and my first Speedtest results were 12.7 and 4.25 Mbps, from an LTE network that's been active for most of a year here.  When I went back to tell the people at Sprint about my experience with the iPhone vs. the dedicated hotspot device, they were surprised.  Then, we were talking about the LTE enhancements just across the state line, and I mentioned that the cows were enjoying them, and they had to laugh.  I'm sure they're unhappy with slow and poor developments because they have to face the angry customers.  I'm keeping the phone with Sprint, but for the moment, I think I'll keep the Verizon hotspot.

Downtown Hamilton, OH

West Main St, Hamilton, OH

Update 2014.03.05: I noticed LTE in Hamilton, Ohio, which seemed to have been ignored, even though it was in-between cities that already showed LTE was in the testing phase.  It looks as though it will be a big summer for Sprint.

Update 2014.03.09: More of the Dayton, Ohio area is covered now, and it seems that even more cows and horses in the country have LTE, even if some parts of towns are not yet covered.  I guess they're making better milk because they're happy, well-connected cows.

Update 2014.03.12: I went to Winchester, Indiana and while I was eating enchiladas, I thought that they might have LTE available, since the "data speed upgrades" have been done, but the coverage map shows LTE just outside of town, but not reaching the town itself.  In many parts of my travels of Indiana and Ohio, I still find service practically non-existent or on roaming because Sprint just doesn't have coverage.

I've only ever been two places in the past five years where the phone said "NO SERVICE" and they were both in the tri-state area.  I could almost understand about a state or national forest but near a U.S. highway?  I suppose it's like the cable companies not wanting to pay for wiring to low density areas because it doesn't pay, but I could swear that there were provisions in spectrum agreements that wireless carriers would provide service.   I may be confused but are there loopholes that say if 1 of the big 4 have service in the area that none of the others need bother?

Update 2014.03.25: Two months have passed and still nothing.  Performance is generally acceptable overnight, but just that--acceptable.  The best I see now is about 30% of what it was at its best, which was close to the limits, and it's about half of the typical during that same time frame.  Am I to believe that there are hundreds of people using their data-sucking devices in the middle of the night?

The whole "up to 10 times the speed of 3G" is something that they did with WiMAX.  They're saying that only the Spark areas (three LTE bands, 800 MHz, 1900 MHz, 2500 MHz) will see the maximum speed, which makes sense if they can use all three frequency bands at once.  With the Tri-Fi mobile hotspot, I was only getting WiMAX over the 2500 MHz band and I regularly saw between 5 Mbps and 10 Mbps, depending on the area, and that was inside a building (motel, restaurant, etc.) where the signal had a lower ability to penetrate.

What I'm seeing from Verizon LTE at home (about 2 miles from the same tower Sprint is using) is anywhere from 12 Mbps to 15 Mbps.  This is likely from two bands, including 700 MHz, which has an easier time of getting into a building than 1900 MHz or whatever they're using on the higher end.  Maybe, next month.

Update 2014.03.27: An hour ago, I got a text message from Sprint saying that I should expect more service interruptions and the wait will be over in the next few days.  What that really means, I don't know.  What I hope is that dual-band LTE will be here, active, and as fast as it should be.  Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of bad service from Sprint.  I was still getting 1xRTT service in some locations in the past two weeks.  They ought to have enough old equipment now that they can push it out to the towers that don't have equipment from, say, 2006 or 2007.

Oh geez.  I went to Eaton, Ohio to get a haircut and eat pizza.  The LTE didn't reach nearly as far and was only really available on the main north-south road through town.  A month ago, it reached well into the countryside.

It's there on Main Street

The speed does look like 10 times 3G

Except that the 3G speed is really good right now

When I returned to Richmond, Indiana, I got a bit of a surprise sitting at the stop light: LTE.  I went to my Speedtest app and before I went far past the next light, about 200 feet from the main road, LTE was gone.  I guess they'll have it at full power in a few days, as they mentioned.  I guess they wanted the store staff to try it.

Update 2014.03.30: I'm seeing LTE show up for an instant several places, including home but as soon as I try to use it, it disappears.  I've checked the updates on the map and where there were none two weeks ago, there are seven eight now.  It's a bit surprising about the distribution of data speed upgrades.  They apparently added a couple of towers out by I-70, but the south of town still has zero towers, and another tower in the poorer section of town received two upgrades.  The tower closest to the Sprint (and Verizon) store and the shopping centers still receives minimal help with 1 data speed upgrade.  Service during the holiday shopping season was unusable.   While they changed the coverage map to show new deployments across the state line, LTE no longer shows up there on my iPhone 5c, at least.  You'd think that it would be better if it's on the coverage map.

Update 2014.03.31: As I was sitting at the stop light where I first discovered LTE in town, I used to measure it.  The PING was 51ms, downlink was 4.78 Mbps, and the uplink was 0.74 Mbps.  Once again, LTE disappeared about 200 feet from there.  I hope this isn't full strength because it certainly doesn't match anywhere else I've tried and Verizon's signal certainly goes further--i.e., to my house about 2 miles away.  The towers with 2 data speed upgrades each are in the least congested areas, so that might be helpful to people who don't have a device to take advantage of it for a year or two.  I mentioned to the @sprintcare people that I figured LTE would be enabled about the time I was moving away, and that it wouldn't be active where I was moving.  It may be better than that, but if the current situation is all they'll do, it's a sad, sad state of affairs.  I hope they'll yell "April Fools!" and turn up the power on April 2nd.

Update 2014.04.30: Yesterday, this town was moved to the active LTE list, even though not much is covered and the tower near the Sprint store is barely working with LTE.  It is better lately for 3G service but putting it back to not quite the best performance is a bit underwhelming.


  1. So you live in Richmond, huh?
    It's the 30th April and people's devices have stopped erratically flipping between eHRPD and LTE (this was happening around 1 month ago, I can't confirm this because I only have a VZW GNex and all this is anecdotal evidence)

    1. I've been here for the last five years or so, but I should be gone in June.

      Sprint's LTE is working near Glen Miller Park, Fort Wayne Avenue, parts of the west side near Hot Head Burritos, etc., and along Chester Blvd. It's incredibly poor near the Sprint store, of course, because they haven't finished with the tower near Walmart.

      I haven't used my Verizon mobile hotspot around Richmond to see what's happening with them. The last time I was that interested was 2012, when I could barely get any 3G service and LTE wasn't active here.

      I doubt AT&T have started--they don't even have enhanced backhaul here, and T-Mobile doesn't care if they ever arrive in an area under 1 million people.

    2. I've been monitoring this stuff for a good while now
      The first to fix the masts up was Verizon, they deployed LTE here in September of 2012. Was pretty fast for about a year, then it started to get congested and is quite mediocre (dunno if VZW built out their separate AWS-4 network in this town, but it's in unnamed places)

      I'm not sure when AT&T got around to deploying LTE here, but they were definitely second (many of the Starbucks-drinking white girls tend to have iPhones on AT&T and I look and see the LTE indicator on them; it's not half-bad, apparently: a couple of them even let me run Speedtest a few times; as of the last few months, the signal penetrates just about any building well, with 30 to 40 Mb/s down pretty consistently)

      The other two, Sprint, they're getting there ( but I want T-Mobile to come here. Legere's given the wireless market a well-needed wakeup call... I've got faith in him and T-Mobile.

    3. Well, I'm regularly seeing 12.x Mbps from Verizon and around 5 Mbps where Sprint has LTE in town now but it's often 15.x - 17.x where things are good. Indianapolis was fairly early for Sprint's LTE but it's almost always under 1 Mbps. When I was driving to Philly during June 2013 and then, to San Jose, CA in August, I saw almost no LTE, and very little WiMAX.

      I'm surprised about AT&T here. They took forever to go past GPRS in many parts of the country. I had reliable 3G data on Sprint when most of Cingular (then) had GPRS. Equally, T-Mobile was stuck on EDGE, and Verizon was slowly adding 3G connections.

    4. I went to the Sprint store a couple days ago.... no significant difference. The signal barely penetrates the bloody building there!
      It's sad that very, very few of their devices support 800 MHz SMR, though even if a Richmondite did have one, it likely wouldn't use that band, because it's only used in areas where Spark has been built out
      You know what? I'll just sit here with my sub-standard Verizon EVDO and wait until T-Mobile decides to give Richmond a much needed upgrade. Sprint is nothing but unfulfilled promises, and they don't seem to wanna change that way of thinking. :c

    5. Sprint's store is at the worst of it, since they're still working on the tower but they have a repeater for the current signal. They have 2 or 3 phones and the latest mobile hotspots that support Spark.

      I got 12.x Mbps out on Williamsburg Pike near I-70, and Glen Miller Park is also good, but not great, probably because of the other tower not being active.

      You could be waiting 15 years for T-Mobile. I expect that they'll be out of business, if they even think about expanding.

    6. Oh lord, they're not even done with working on the masts here? They just rushed to add Richmond as an official market then. People are already fuming over Sprint's numerous unfulfilled promises. Gotta be the fact that If they were to further delay adding us to the official market, they'd hæmorrhage subscribers locally worse than they already are

    7. I wondered about why Sprint made Richmond official, except that I've been a PITA to their headquarters the last 5+ years since I moved from Florida.

      They've been sending me text messages telling me that they're almost done and it's so great. The truth is that they've made things better in the worst areas, so that is really good.

      Sometime this summer, they're going to turn on LTE at a huge number of towers all across the country, and it's going to be a shock to the other three carriers.

      The tower near Walmart has the most equipment to upgrade, since it has the most capacity, etc. It's no wonder it's taking so long.

      I'm just wondering what happened across the state line in Ohio because where I was seeing LTE between here and Eaton, it's no longer working but the coverage maps says otherwise.

    8. Hmpf.
      People around me on Sprint have been saying that their 3G's seemingly worse.... I'll give them a couple more months and see if they deliver what they've been purporting

    9. While they're working on a tower, it will be worse, as capacity will be down. During the holiday buying season, the tower by Walmart was almost always useless. Now, it's much better, but it's still occasionally useless. Being that more people converge on that area than any other in town, it's understandable.