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Last Updated: January 13th, 2012

Sprint has network problems. Major problems. And they've gotten a lot worse lately. Really, really bad. Not all areas are affected - and in fact some have improved already, but more and more areas are getting so bad that Sprint's 3G data is completely unusable there, especially since the introduction of the iPhone. Troubleshooting and update my phone's "profile" and PRL didn't help, as evident from the screenshot #2 you see below.

Earlier this week I contacted Sprint's customer service, followed by an email to an executive and CEO Dan Hesse himself (or whoever fields his emails). The former told me there was a tower outage in my area, and a fix was incoming the next day (as you've guessed nothing is fixed as of today, 5 days later). The latter, however, kicked things into high gear.

I got a couple of callbacks and emails from Dan's office within a few hours, followed by a special department that Sprint calls TRV Escalations picking up my case. This department selectively takes serious complaints that don't get resolved by the first couple of levels of customer service and has the power to send out field engineers, analyze tower information, collect test data from the device, and generally inform whoever is dealing with them about what's going on with the network. These guys seem to know what they're talking about, and I got a feeling they're genuinely interested in getting problems resolved. Ticket counts need to go down and all that jazz - we get it.

After conversing with TRV Escalations a few times and sending them some data (speed tests, tower information, PRL, etc), I was able to assemble a picture of what's been going on with the Sprint network in the past year or so, what's going on with it now, and what's going to happen in the future. Some of this information may be common knowledge, some may be new to you, so I will summarize everything I've learned in my favorite bullet point style.

SC20111017-101459 image

Sprint's network problems

  • When Sprint starting seeing a massive spike and subsequent slowdown of the EV-DO (3G) network last year, upgrades slated for the end of 2010 were scheduled to keep up with capacity demands.
  • These upgrades never happened. The tech quoted me "shortage of rare parts" as the single biggest reason - Sprint had only enough parts to maintain its existing infrastructure and perform repairs on existing towers.
  • The explosion in popularity of Android phones on the Sprint network was the primary reason for network capacity issues (no surprise there).
  • The iPhone launch indeed affected the network as of late and slowed it down even further (which is what I and many other have noticed). Sure, the iPhone may be more efficient at using data, but the amount of people upgrading from feature-phones and switching to Sprint for its unlimited data exceeds the offset of those switching from Android to iPhone.
  • Back to network upgrades - the situation got so bad that the department started getting flooded with trouble tickets.
  • Finally, around May/June of 2011, the parts supply resumed and network upgrades slowly started rolling out.
  • Tower upgrades to deal with EV-DO (3G) traffic are going to pick up towards the end of the year (starting right about now) and well into the next year.

Network Vision, LTE, WiMax, upgrades

  • There are a few things Sprint is doing to upgrade the towers: something they call Network Vision. Network Vision is a special codename for an upgrade plan that consists of:
    • Increasing capacity (more bandwidth available to the tower).
    • Moving the power source closer to the transmitter - this should improve signal strength by about 10%, which really isn't much.
    • Moving to LTE.
    • Combining 3G and 4G base stations into multi-mode base stations (check out the Sprint Network Vision Information Center)
  • LTE will start rolling out towards mid-2012 (we already know a much improved LTE-Advanced will also be rolling out in 2013).
  • By 2013, LTE should cover *all* current Sprint 3G customers.
  • (It is my opinion that the future is very bright with Sprint once these network upgrades are rolled out. 2013+ is going to be a magnificent time to be on Sprint, if they execute right and keep their unlimited data plans.)
  • WiMax will stay on till at least the end of 2013 to provide service to existing 4G devices.
  • I'm not sure whether this is part of Network Vision or not (I don't think it is), but there is a plan to repurpose the current iDEN 800MHz network to work with compatible 3G devices. The devices will automatically switch between 800MHz and 1900MHz depending on signal strength, location, etc. Lower frequency allows for better building penetration and covers a larger area, so this should help improve signal in many places. For comparison, WiMax is 2.5GHz and has poor building penetration. It's also why it's much spottier than LTE (don't quote me on this, but I think Sprint is planning to roll out LTE using 1900MHz and 800MHz, while Verizon's operates on 700MHz). I didn't catch an estimate of when this upgrade would be completed.
  • Unsurprisingly, none of the existing WiMax devices will be compatible with the LTE network - a software upgrade wouldn't magically make them compatible - a new radio is needed.

The Bay Area

  • In the Bay Area, where I was complaining about ultra-low speeds, Network Vision is not scheduled yet, but emergency capacity upgrades (they called it adding an EV-DO carrier) to a series of towers are planned ahead of that.
  • From what I gathered, most towers in the area operate using 2 voice carriers and 1 EV-DO carrier.
  • Specifically, I gave the tech 3 areas where I had measly speeds and latency; he went into the system, looked at usage levels for those towers, and found that while they were rated to operate normally at 5-8k EV-DO connections, those towers had anywhere from 10k to 18k connections. You can see how that could be problematic. The Now Network is almost bursting at the seams.
  • Apparently, all the towers in the areas that I reported (San Francisco around City College, a stretch from Millbrae to Hayward Park, and Palo Alto to Mountain View) are scheduled to receive capacity upgrades on October 31st, with another week or so for them to become fully operational. These capacity upgrades consist of adding a single additional EV-DO carrier to increase throughput.
  • In my case, there was no point to send a field tech to those locations - the problem was already apparent, my speed test screenshots that I emailed TRV Escalations showed it quite clearly, and upgrades were scheduled. We'll see what happens when and if they're completed - I'm not holding my breath just yet.
  • More tower upgrades are scheduled in the Bay Area in December 2011 and next year in addition to October 2011.

Random facts

And a few random facts that don't fit in above:

  • Surprisingly, Sprint uses the SpeedTest.net app to run data speed tests. They don't have an in-house app or servers to do this, so they opt in to use a pretty much de-facto standard. Outside of a few bugs after the LTE network was released, the Speedtest app has been reliable, especially in diagnosing slow connection issues.
  • There are no known plans to upgrade any existing or future devices to EV-DO Rev.B which would improve certain aspects quite a bit, such as bandwidth, latency, power efficiency, and interference (to me, this sounds like a great standard to move to for 3G, doesn't it, Sprint?)
  • The techs can't pull up historical data speeds or monitor them on demand using some in-house app (that would help a lot, in my opinion) - they need screenshots of speed tests and debug data off the phones at the time signal is bad.
  • I suggested a system that would show a map of network upgrades for customers to see that something - anything - is being done to fix the network. Just knowing that there's activity would alleviate concerns. For example, there were no 4G updates from Sprint for almost a year, making people unhappy/not confident in the network's future. I realize such a system is my wishful thinking, as Sprint would rather prefer to not disclose it has problems and where they are, so I don't think it'll ever materialize.
  • Late addition: Forgot to mention this earlier. I brought up the fact that every single Android phone I've tried with Sprint doesn't show when 3G goes to 1x (which oftentimes explains slow data). The phone's reception indicator simply continues to show 3G. It was only when I moved to CyanogenMod that I saw 1x show up in the notification bar, and it was there a whole lot more often than I thought. The tech blamed Android and custom OS flavors, but I'm not buying it. I am willing to put money on the fact that Sprint specifically disabled the 1x indicator to make it seem like it had 3G everywhere.

So, as you can tell, the wheels to make the Now Network better and faster are in motion, or so Sprint tells me. After reading this message by another customer who was promised tower upgrades first by the end of July, then end of October, and now end of December, I am not holding my breath too hard. But I do think Sprint will sort this mess out and has already started doing so.

I hope my research into the matter has been helpful - don't hesitate to ask any questions or correct me if I got any of the information wrong - it was collected over a period of about a week from numerous phone conversations.

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Sprint Lies

    Tower outage huh? hahahahahaha

    • JirafaBo

      "tower outtage"has always been sprints go to answer for any customer complaint. Horrible battery life? Tower outage. Phone not working? Tower outage. Etc etc.

      • boe

        It is the perfect reply for their 60 second metric goal to get you off the phone. "Tower problem" gets you off the phone quickly and when you call back a week later or month later to say nothing got fixed, you'll probably get another rep so their precious statistic by which their lame boss judges them is in tact.

        Customer satisfaction has NOTHING to do with calls per hour. In fact they are often diametrically opposed.

    • no_more_sprint

      I just switched to T-Mobile from Sprint because my Sprint speeds were AVERAGE 50k and would usually timeout before pages could load. I talked to many reps and all gave different excuses but funny enough one of them was the above mentioned "tower outage in your area". Seriously? No. Sprint just sucks and they only got worse and lied about working on it. I don't care if they ever fix their problems, I won't go back. They shouldn't have kept charging full price (including the $10/month "premium data") knowing their network was no longer providing their customers proper or fully functional service.

      • Nacron

        I switched from tmo to sprint because I was getting throttled 7 days into the Billing period leaving me with less than dial up speeds for the rest of the month. enjoy your "unlimited" internet

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com Ben Marvin

    Shame they promised WiMax to so many more areas and will probably never ever deliver on that. Meanwhile they're still pushing WiMax phones like nothing's wrong, and probably will continue till it's completely shut off.

    • NoGood

      Dont worry those areas arent missing anything. Wiimax when you can stay connected longer then 30 seconds if you hold really still you can get around 3g speeds. It hasnt improved 1 bit since the 4g release.

      • Simon Belmont

        That's funny. I get around 15Mbps down on WiMax around here.

        That's actually slightly faster than my friend's home's ISP speed. It's stable too.

        • Gee

          sprint wimax is capped at 12 down and 1 up. You'll occasionly get a bit higher but it averages out to 12.

    • boe

      Yep - I'm about 10 minutes from downtown LA. I live about 4 blocks from 2 major highways. I get about .2mb on 3G and can't stay connected on 4G for long but it is sometimes as fast as .5mbps before it drops!

      Doesn't matter if it is 4 in the morning or 4 in the afternoon - pretty crappy speeds on both networks.

    • Hoffagotti

      I couldn't agree more. After so many complaints and issues with Slow 3G I had about enough with them. I asked them why they are still pushing WiMax phone and they gave me all kinds of excuses stating "oh WiMax phones will work on LTE network" which is a lie. I am VERY disappointed with Sprint. Their reps are not knowledgeable at all. I am with them still hoping that I still have a "good deal" while I can use it. Overall very disappointed.

  • Tony

    One additional note: Network Vision will upgrade cdma 1x to cdma 1x advanced, which requires half the capacity of cdma 1x. This extra capactity(frequency) can be and probably will be given to more EVDO carriers.

    • William D

      Lets also not forget that people keep talking about "Network Vision" and mentioning the "800Mhz" spectrum throwing it around like its going to help out... ITS NOT.

      Big reason why....

      Sprint is using their 800Mhz in ESMR and the phones have to specifically have that. None of the phones except the most new have that. iPhone surprisingly also does not. So unless youre using some "dumbphone" or an EVO 3D, EVO Shift, or EVO Design, then you arent likely to be able to benefit from the 800 ESMR coverage that Network Vision is going to offer.

      Maybe Im wrong, but my understanding is that CDMA 800 isnt happening, its ESMR 800 that is.

      • Xavier

        800MHz and ESMR are the same thing.
        CDMA and LTE is being deployed on the 800Mhz band.
        800MHz bands are only in the newer Sprint phones(EVO 3D, SGS II, etc.), excluding the iPhone.
        Due to Network Vision, broadcast antenna's are being upgraded, so you'll be better signal strength on Sprint's(majority) 1900-only phones(just not as good as 800).

        • Radiomanx1

           Xavier, you are wrong....  ESMR or SMR is a freq block set in the 800 MHZ spectrum SMR is 850 to 870 mhz.  CDMA 800 is in the b block.  SMR or ESMR and 800 mhz are not the same thing at all. I am a RF engineer and deal with the 800 block every day for the past 20 years.

          The FCC has not given the go-ahead to Sprint to use the SMR band for anything else than SMR...  There is about a 60% chance the RCC with not allow Sprint to use 800 SMR freq for anything other than SMR.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        The dumb phones aren't using all this data - it's the new phones that matter. If Sprint can switch only the EVO 3D, Shift, and Design, it would already help tremendously.

  • mike

    Wow, this is probably the best-written article I've ever read on AP... given all the research you did to write it.

    I am a Sprint customer also expiriencing the network problems, so knowing all this information makes me feel much better about my favorite carrier.

    Thank you, Artem, I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into this.

    • boe

      Please note - they said clearly the writer said they aren't holding their breath. Sprint has promised lots of things in the past and I can tell you - the future does not look bright for Sprint customers.

      Sure Hess could keep his promises and the democrats might start saying government is too big already.

      • Scott

        Or like Republicans saying cutting taxes for millionaires and screwing the working class is bad for the country.

  • Genjinaro

    EVDO Rev B is really a key move here that Sprint is overlooking & would remedy these issues. KDDI mapped this out & an Indian Telecom saw to make this move.

    • Simon Belmont

      I agree. I believe EVDO Rev. B technically also allows for data and talk at the same time.

      Of course if you're on LTE/Wi-Fi/WiMax you can do that too. But it would be one less thing that a GSM carrier can tout.

  • Leo

    Artem, thanks for a well written, information post. I sure do hope things get better sooner rather than later...but it does feel nice to have a little more information to keep my frustration at bay.

  • William D

    When you contact DAN HESSE you're actually contacting a specialized customer care department. Generally higher than regular phone customer care, but lower than Executive and Regulatory (aka "the final say" as I call them). TRV Escalations are not a special department, they are just basically people who take notes on the issues you have, have you perform multiple tests on your phone and schedule tower equipment replacement tickets, but dont actually "fix" the situation. I know this because I dealt with them (a lady named Nina) for 4 months this year alone! They would tell me that new data cards would be in place by a certain time, yet nothing happened.

    The information they are giving you is EXTREMELY fluffed because they probably know you're posting it here, as a blogger where people can read it. This is good and bad. Good because now people can EXPECT something from Sprint and can hold them accountable when it doesnt happen and that it means they know people know the situation now. Its bad because they are STILL lying about their issues to you, and still fluffing it up and saying "Oh it will be fixed by a certain day" - ie, Sprint saying its a tower issue in your area, aka what I say back is "Its a tower issue on EVERY SINGLE TOWER in the Bay Area", cause I have the same problems you have from SF to SJ (along South City, Burlingame, Palo Alto just to name a few cities). So its definitely a network issue that they knew since AT LEAST January of this year when I called and complained 3x a week for 6 months over.

    • jlek

      Big tower cause the trouble is in maine as well :)

  • Cody Callaway

    this is a great article and very well written. I can't help, but feel bad for Sprint's customers. I think the way they have managed things lately have been very poor. They are taking advantage of things. I know the future looks bright, but that's just it..It's the future and any network in America or elsewhere is going to make the same claims. The wireless industry has been taking advantage of customers and bending the truth through marketing for years and it's never been worse until now. All this talk of 4G and this and that Sprint is really going to have to tread the waters lightly as they have the potential to really make a lot of their faithful customers upset. Like you said they have no plans to upgrade current phones and to Rev-B which would dramtically improve reception. I know you also said that Sprints LTE plans are looking up and are exciting, but let's remember that Sprint is bar far the smallest of the top 3 and it is no where close to the coverage that Verizon has and Verizon will have their current 3G market covered with the better 700 Mhz spectrum LTE that they have been very aggressive with this year. No matter Sprint's plans they are way behind and they just made a huge gamble with Apple and has potentially signed the company's death certificate if they can't meet/beat the very high goal of 8mil upgrades per year (I think that is what I read ) and even with Sprints fairly good last couple years they have only managed to grab 10-11 mil upgrades per year so they plan 80% to be iPhones? I think they are making some very bold moves (arguably have to) and it will either work or it won't, but I don't think anyone will argue the fact that America needs Sprint and we need them bad to keep the other two honest and hard working. I just can't get past the fact that Sprint is going to have to dodge a major bullet later this year when they launch LTE and people have no idea that their current phones and tablets won't run on it despite being under contract and then reading this I saw that they only have plans to carry WiMax until the end of 2013? Is that correct?

  • James L

    It's over Johnny, it's over!!!

  • Christopher

    It's too late. Sprint lost me as a customer when 3G speeds dropped to near unusable over the last few months. I'm going pay the ETF fee, and jump ship to Verizon for 800 mhz LTE awesomeness. Maybe if Sprint gets its act together in a couple of years, I might try them again. Might.

    Good article Artem.

    • Ryan S

      Im not far behind you. I am just waiting for the Nexus to be available. Especially since it looks like Sprint is making the steps to move to locking down wireless tethering.

      Their prices are competitive but the rest of Sprint isnt. The premiere plan was cool but they opted to ditch that. Of course now that the network has gotten so bad I spend half my time at 1x and when I am in "3G" I am getting 1x speeds. 4g coverage has somehow gotten worse while Verizon blows them away.

      • Hoffagotti

        I had enough with them as well. Service people are horrible, useless and I am not getting a good signal. I understand if the neck of the woods don't have good coverage, but where I work is a business district it should work better at least there....

    • boe

      Don't pay the ETF - use the verizon PRL and have sprint kick you off your contract. I'm waiting for the Galaxy Nexus to come out before I get kicked.

      • nino64

        Hey boe can you explain me about using verizon PRL ? because im also waiting for the G NEXUS and i will have to pay the ETF too but if is there anything to avoid that i would try it

        • Freak4Dell

          Keep in mind that using a Verizon PRL to roam and suck down data will mean sticking around with Sprint for about 3 months or so. They usually won't kick you off after the first month.

        • boe

          If you search XDA for some phones you can force the PRL to use Verizon. Once you use a certain number of minutes on roaming or 300mb of data - you've exceeded what you are allowed. YOu can either wait for Sprint to call you on the issue and give you a warning or you can call and complain you notice your phone doesn't get good signal most of the time so you have to roam (not telling them why your phone is roaming). Let them know you'd like more towers and speed in your area or you'd like them to cancel your account without an ETF.

  • Gabe

    In the interest of impartiality, a similar article like this should be written for AT&T. They have had this issue since who knows how long and has been making similar network improvements but a lot of people seem to be just ignoring them. Why? Because lip service doesn't count for much. Same with this article, I am looking forward to seeing these upgrades implemented. Hopefully their LTE upgrades won't be the battery suck that WiMAX (or whatever their current 4G service) turned out to be.

  • http://denh.am DrMacinyasha

    Switching the 800MHz band from iDEN to EvDO *is* a part of Network Vision. They've also said they'll be converting the 1900 MHz band to LTE, and 800 MHz to LTE-A. Furthermore, WiMAX is 2.6GHz, not 2.5 last I heard.

    And yes, the "tower outage" is a common excuse. Apparently there's been a "tower outage" near my work for the past two years, causing any device to roam onto Verizon, lose 3G, and eventually Samsung devices will lose data entirely.

  • Jaymoon

    Great write up.

    Living out here in the sticks (as far as Sprint is concerned) in Eastern Oregon, I too have noticed the speeds decreasing.

    Although it was happening much earlier than the iPhone launch. I'd have to say that it's been slower and slower over the past 2 years.

    Using the "Location Cache Map" app, I see that I have connected to 4 different cell towers in my town of 12,000. I bring up the same app on my friend's phone (who is on Verizon), and he has the same 4 cell towers that he's connected to.

    Every time I see more and more people here upgrade to a smart phone, I shudder at the fact that these same 4 towers are going to have to pull their weight and keep chugging along, even with the increase of more, and more, AND MORE, smartphone users. ... apparently across multiple cell providers even.

    So this proposal to have Sprint LTE service reach everywhere 3G currently is, at least gives me some hope!

  • Jeremy M

    Network Vision is more than what you mention above. A quick search and investigation into what even Sprint says about Network Vision would tell you that.

  • hldc1

    I'm not even a Sprint customer and I read the entire story. Perfect example of why Android Police really is the best Android blog on the interwebs.

  • http://www.t-mobile.com tmogeek

    This is nothing new with Sprint. I called them to let them know one of their antennas had broke loose from its mount and was laying on the ground. I even sent them a picture of it. I called ATT at the same time because the Sprint's antenna had knocked their antenna loose and it was dangling by the hard lines. ATT was out the next day to fix the antenna mount and it took 4 months for Sprint to get out to the site and remount the antenna.

    The sold their engineering department to Ericsson so RF engineers, NOC, Switch and Field Operations staff were all transferred to Ericsson.

    I talk to their Field Techs and Ericsson's changes have not been received all that well. Instead of having an assigned area with specific sites they have "ownership" of, techs are dispatched to any site.

    Ericsson moved the Sprint NOC to India, and the language barrier is well.....huge. I'm sure many of you have had to call a product support department in India for a laptop or pc trouble. Can you imagine having to do that with a cellular network?

    When I worked at Verizon, they expanded their network from 3 to 4 carriers to handle the traffic load. Last I heard they were at 9 carriers in the big city markets. Comparing Sprint's move from 3 to 4 carriers tells you they are way behind in upgrades to handle their traffic load.

    You have to give Dan Hesse credit. He is a marketing genius. He took a 3 rate carrier with shrinking numbers and turned them around. What did he do?

    He outsourced the Engineering dept. to save $$. He took that money and claimed "first" to 4G with the Clearwire deal, increased advertising and acquired cool handsets like the EVO. Classic hucksterism, sell the sizzle, not the bacon. Now that subscriber numbers are climbing, lets see if Hesse can deliver on his promise of LTE by 2013.

  • bugaloo921

    I have friends that are dedicated Sprint customers in the DC metro area that are constantly losing regular phone connectivity, and don't bother trading the 4g, yet stick with them because of their low cost unlimited plan. Personally, I will stay with Verizon because I have the unlimited plan, and my Tbolt stays ripping fast on V's 4g network!

  • andddlay

    Yeah I think this is awful, especially seeing Verizon's huge lte support. For now, I'm almost always close to a router, so I just use that to use internet on my phone.

  • Drak

    Look on the bright side...

    At least you have unlimited data at 44kbps!

  • jeremy

    I have had the pleasure of being on all four of the major carriors in my lifetime. And hands down verizon is by FAR the best network ive ever been on. I dont know how the customer service is, BECAUSE I HAVENT HAD TO CALL THEM!

  • taylordd

    Great read. I think my long term plan for phones and networks is this: switch from ATT to Verizon and get the GN in December, and if Sprint's LTE Advanced is really killer, move to Sprint in December 2013.

  • Rob

    Great article. I almost always go directly to Dan Hesse's email whenever I have a problem now.

    The staff who field his email are fairly competent and focused on resolving customer concerns (my experience). I have never connected to TRV to my knowledge, but it's good to know they exist.

    Unfortunately this is a sad statement that if you want tangible results you pretty much have to stop wasting your time with local retail employees. Most of them lack authority to provide the types of solutions that corporate can offer. My experience has also been that too many Sprint employees lack the technical know-how to address many of the issues which arise with our smartphones.

    Every solution is not a PRL or firmware update, nor is it telling a customer that they can't use a certain launcher or that they have too many applications installed or to question the customer if the phone is rooted just because it has an non-stock launcher on it. (That actually happened!)

    One exception is a retail store experience at the direction of Sprint Corporate that actually resulting in a replacement phone order. It actually took longer to drive there than to get through the exchange process, so having corporate involved clearly helped.

  • RockingmyEvo3D

    First and formost this is exceptional information and definately one of the best wriiten articles I have ever seen on this subject. Definately a lot of promises being made by sprint and honestly what are they suppose to say. I am truly disappointed with the service from a 3g standpoint which has gotten MUCH WORSE SINCE JULY 2011. But what makes this extremely worse is the disappearing signal strenght especially on the EVO 3D which doesn't hold a signal to save it's life nothing like the evo 4g. Even 4g from time to time goes from 3 to 4 bars to 1 often which I have never seen on my orginal evo 4g back in 2010. Sprint is living on the history and outright love if the EVO FAMILY OF DEVICES and all the customers that purchased the orginal OG EVO in june 2010 so YES they are very lucky. Otherwise this will be getting better by July/August 2012 which hopefully will take place when the EVO BRAND for 2012 launches which we all will just have to wait. Meanwhile with the GALAXY NEXUS on the horizon I will definately purchase that device on verizon on day one and continue to keep my evo 3d awaiting the arrival of what better be the quadcore evo brand in 2012. Sprint better get their act together..

  • LtDan

    Great article. I am glad that Sprint is essentially ditching WiMax - it is just inferior tech compared to LTE. While it will mean a new phone in the next couple of years, we all upgrade our phones at least that often.

    No issues with 3G in my area (Orange County), so I am hoping for financial solvency for Sprint to be able to carry out their plans for the network.

  • TeeGee

    I don't understand this: why must customers always be duped into the "unlimited" plans (which are actually very limited compared to the infinite number),have to pay up more for the same service...and yet these mobile carriers don't even want to pay up for upgrades. You Americans have a problem of one-sided romances with your mobile carriers...why don't you demand what they promised. Class action lawsuit or something... in my country,even though our carriers are greedy bastards,they would never dare to screw with their subscribers like that. Damn,I.hope u get this solved (you consumers I mean...also,do.something!)

    • Freak4Dell

      Our contracts prohibit class-action lawsuits. It sucks, I know, but courts have already determined that it's a valid clause, so it gives a judge the right to throw out a class-action if we tried to bring one against a carrier. I'm sure there's judges out there who wouldn't throw it out, but it's never guaranteed that you'll get your case in front of a judge that agrees with you.

  • Beck

    Wow! This has got to be one of the best written articles I have ever read. I usually get bored shortly into a blog/article, & stop reading it after a paragraph or two. This is extremely informative, easy to read, & I know applies to MANY people. Being that I've been having continuous connectivity issues for way too long, I'm very appreciative for all of the time, work, & effort you put into being able to provide us with this data. Obviously we aren't going to get it from our provider/carrier! It's comforting to know things should be getting better soon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. To have $10 added to my bill each mo for 4g, it would be nice to at least have some sort of coverage 100% of the time.....but I know that will never happen. Thanks again for providing us with such valuable information. Keep up the great work!!!

  • Scott

    Interestingly enough, I got the following email from Sprint this evening.

    We have been experiencing an EVDO issue nationwide for about 2 weeks
    now this issue specifically slows data speeds.
    It has affected all of our devices across the board.

    I checked your B2G account, and you still have a ways to go before
    your data speed will be throttled
    or before you reach the cap. I do not show that your data speed has
    been reduced. They have been
    steadily clearing these issues in all affected areas, and are now
    showing a ETR of 10/31/11. To be cleared
    in your area.

    Check back with us tomorrow, and we can check again for you, thank you
    for your patience.

    • Scott

      Wanted to add, I sent the email in reference to my phone and mobile broadband, both of which are below dial up speeds. Thing is, this started longer than two weeks ago, it started months ago, guess I'll see what happens tomorrow.

  • jon

    This is one of the best articles I have read on here. Thank you very much Artem for taking the time to really investigate this problem and report on it. I completely agree with you in the sense that at least letting customers know that SOMETHING is being done, is better than nothing or the generic "tower outage" response.

    I have had an Evo since launch and just like everyone else I have been victim to the 3G slowdowns. And more than that, ever since this summer I have noticed my 3G dropping to 1X a LOT more than usual. My Evo has been rooted since I got it basically so it shows when it drops to 1X and the really annoying part is it won't reconnect to 3G unless I turn off mobile data and turn it back on. Streaming music is nearly impossible at times when I'm driving at work. And even though I'm in a 4G area, good luck going more than a mile down the road without it dropping the signal.

    I'm really looking forward to these upgrades. Sprint has the potential to have a really great network with all the spectrum they own, but it's up to them to actually deliver on it. They spent millions on iPhone's but hardly anything on network upgrades, it's time to turn that revenue around. Because if they haven't fixed their network by the time my contract ends (oct 2012), then I'm jumping to Verizon regardless of if it's more expensive or if it has a data cap. No point in unlimited data if it's almost unusable.

  • http://www.hardhairpinleft.com Andrew Hime

    I happened to switch to AT&T about a month back so I could use a Palm Pre 3. But I will say my Pre always showed me when I was 1x, at least the first year or so. I had noticed things were slower now that I think about it after switching, and I didn't notice seeing 1x that much more, barring obvious tower problems during storms and the like.

  • Rbaggio

    their TV spot is funny they say that they are the faster 4g and that there is not cap where t-mobile slows down the speed after 3GB, even then tmo is still faster then regular Sprints speed.

    • Freak4Dell

      It's true. Sprint doesn't throttle after 2GB.

      They throttle from the very beginning. :p

  • Kasey

    They're losing a lot of subscribers, including me. I'm in process of switching over and it'll be complete if they ever release my phone #.
    See ya. Maybe I'll reconsider in 2013 when their network is complete. "I'll believe it when I see it" comes to mind.

  • Randy

    The "Tower outage" response sounds familiar.

    My mom is on AT&T, and they had an outage in our area for about a week. We live about 5 minutes from an inlet to a lake. When my mom asked why she couldn't get a signal at her house, AT&T told her that "there's a boat that's docked in the harbor that's causing signal issues for the surrounding towns." Obviously that was BS. They had some towers go down or something, and didn't want to tell anyone what really happened.

    Sounds a lot like the customer service rep's response here.

  • jawabba

    This to me is a storm Sprint is going to weather until it finds someone able to buy the company. Lets see, add customers at an insanely rapid rate with android and iOS, do no upgrading to infrastructure, make claim to "working on issues." They are building their value for a massive sale or, for that matter, purchase. There is no reason to believe that have any intention of fixing or creating an upgraded network.

  • mistermix

    Good article. I'd like to see more discussions of infrastructure. It's unfortunate that the FCC doesn't demand that carriers disclose tower location and status so we could just go to a map and see what carriers really have near our locations, and whether they're working.

  • Freak4Dell

    Artem, this is a great write up. It's very informative, and doesn't bore people with a bunch of technical information that most people don't care about.

    However, I just want to let you know that you shouldn't get your hopes up. The department that fields emails to Hesse is basically the "we pretend to care" department. It's true, sometimes they can take care of problems that lower departments refuse to help with. Other times, they follow up with a form email and a generic, uninformative phone call, and you never hear from them again. This technical issue goes far beyond any single localized tower issue. Sprint is horribly short on backhaul to their towers, and at this point, there is no fast fix for this. Sprint is doing what they can to calm people down by giving them false hope that the problem will be fixed "soon". As the conference call last week proved, Sprint is going to need money to get them through until 2015, when they expect the iPhone to finally start being profitable. I'm sure they'll manage to swindle the money out of somebody, but if they can't do it in a reasonable amount of time, you can expect the Network Vision progress to slow down. It's already too little, too late as it is, and if they can't manage to get it done by 2013 as they're estimating, they are really going to be in some deep trouble.

    I've been with Sprint for years, recommended them to a lot of people, defended them against a lot of haters, etc., but at this point, I've lost all faith. I'm tired of sitting here and watching the company flush themselves down the toilet. I'll be leaving in December. Who knows, maybe they'll prove me wrong and have a rock solid network by 2013. Judging by the fact that they've completely ignored the problem until now (the one good thing about the iPhone crowd is that they finally got Sprint to acknowledge a problem), and all the other stupid things they've done over the past year or so, I really doubt that's going to happen. I am almost positive that their one competitive advantage left, unlimited data, will be gone within a year, also, so at that point, there's pretty much no reason for any customer to choose Sprint.

  • K4

    Long time Sprint user and recent service sufferer. About three to five months ago, we noticed a severe decrease in signal strength at our home, where we previously had a good signal. About a week ago, we complained to Sprint customer service. They gave a us a partial credit for loss service, but more importantly, they sent us an Airave. Airave is a device that hooks up between your broadband modem and your computer (or router) and acts as a mini tower, giving you a stronger signal. They sell them, I think, for around $200, but they sent us one free. Just passing this on because I didn't see it mentioned earlier in this post and this could be an alternative for some of you that are thinking of jumping ship.

    • noobs

      if you read your contract or any other cell phone provider they do not guarentee coverage inside any building....learn to read terms and conditions before you rant and rave.

  • Opt8imusV

    I see the 1x quite a bit with android....I'm not on sprint, but sprint owned Virgin Mobile

    • tmotech

      You billing isn't on Sprint but you definitely are on the Sprint network.

  • http://facebook.com/lamarw LW

    I happened to be in SF last night, on Clement in the single digit Avenues. Couldn't get 4G for the life of me, which is weird since that's a pretty open part of a metropolitan area. 3g was fine however.

  • OnyxWolf

    I'm going to add to the 'this is a really well written article' pile. I actually feel like I learned something about Sprint and after being a customer of theirs for about 9 years, that's actually saying something.

    Sprint is like that really bad boyfriend you just can't get rid of. Full of promises and "please don't leave me, I'll treat you better this time, I swear!". After all these years with them, I'm about ready to just pay more for Verizon.

    • Freak4Dell

      I know way less unhappy Verizon customers than unhappy Sprint customers, so it seems the premium is worth it. I'm probably jumping to AT&T myself, but if Verizon drops a shared data plan before the end of the year, I'll be all over that.

  • Lazarus Dark

    I believe Verizon does the same with the 1x 3G indicator. I never saw it on my OG Droid until I rooted and installed Cyanogenmod 7. Then suddenly I saw it on many occasions. In fact, I believe previously when the Droid seemed to be loading slow, I would blame it on the phone being slow, but now I think in fact it was at 1x speed but it just wasn't indicating it.

  • Rogue2204

    I was going to say that my Epic shows the 1x indicator but then I remembered that I have a custom rom :p its been so long since I have had to mess with it that I forgot!

  • dcdttu

    The last point you made makes me feel better. I noticed that, while on vacation in Colorado, my CM7 phone would roam on Verizon and show 1x, whereas my friend's non-rooted were roaming on 3G. I was annoyed, but maybe they were on 1x and it only showed 3G, like you said? I went into their Settings, and it even showed EV-DO there too, if I recall correctly. And my friend with a Verizon iPhone indeed did have 3G. I guess I'll never know!

  • Vinny

    The bottom line is Sprint data speeds are going to suck big time for at least another year. Why the hell would anyone buy a phone on that network. I could not handle that kind of piss poor speeds from any carrier. You can go to Verizon for just a few bucks more and get over 15 MB download and 5 MB upload all day and all night. Crazy, all the data you can get still sucks if you are getting speeds that are unusable.

  • http://pauloberman.com paul oberman
  • Rob Smith

    This is well written but on big and I mean BIG factor was left out. The main reason Sprint's network is so bad is because of Ericsson. I was part of all that merger mess with Sprint Nextel and was outsourced to Ericsson with 8000 other Sprint Nextel Employee. Ericsson does not do anything unless the problem puts a dent into the over all SLA. 5 sites could be off air for weeks and if those 5 sites don't impact the total SLA they just stay off air until someone is dispatched to the site. Sprint did not follow (in the bay area) Lucent's recommendation to have EVDO services on CDM so at a later date they could go with E-Net back haul. Sprint's sites are all t-1 and when a t-1 drops Ericsson does not run out to fix it right away, it could be weeks before they fix it, if not months. If EVDO has two t-1's and one drops this impacts the customer with slow speeds. If the second one drops this takes DO down and you are now on 1xrtt. I left Ericsson because of it's unethical treatment of the customer (Sprint Nextel). Ericsson does NOT and I repeat DOES NOT care about the end user, the MS. Ericsson also got rid of all their "highly skill technicians". Yes that is right, an email went out nationally that said "There are too many highly qualified technicians and engineer working on the Sprint Nextel network". And Ericsson proceeded to FORCE all the highly skilled technicians and engineers over to other projects within Ericsson that had nothing to do with Sprint Nextel. I was one of them. Ericsson then hired people off the street to back fill the hole they just left in the labor pool for Sprint Nextel. None of the people Ericsson hired for replacements have any knowledge of RF, radio, network skills. In one case in the central valley Ericsson hired a secretary as a field tech. So far two seasoned tech's have left the company because they can't deal with the people Ericsson hires. As for pay.... well Ericsson gutted everyone's pay. You will not find a single tech that want's to work their and every tech is looking for a job. Because Ericsson cut peoples pay the staff is not rewarded at all so when they do show up the do a really poor job. This is the reality of why you have slow speeds! Also the parts issues... That was crap from Sprint Nextel to say such a thing, it is untrue. VZW and others can get the parts like crazy... I personally just did a pile of EVDO upgrades myself. Parts were ordered from Lucent and within 4 days I had the pars in hand.

    Bottom line: Ericsson is Sprint's problem and until Ericsson is removed from Sprint's network nothing will improve. People should not waste their money with Sprint Nextel, go somewhere else and support an American company with American labor... OH yeah I forgot to also stay, 3000 of those 8000 jobs Sprint outsourced to Ericsson went overseas... and 2000 jobs were just cut out of the company altogether. Needless to say, I will never own a Sprint Nextel product ever again!

    PS. sorry for any and all spelling error... I am just to lazy to check what I have written here.

  • Rob Smith

    I was also just told that in the Bay Area there is a warehouse full of Lucent CDMA evdo add kits that need to be installed but because Ericsson got ride of all most the people that know how to add these kits the cap adds are very slow going. In fact no adds have taken place is weeks because no one knows how to do them and the people that do are either on vacation or too busy trying to fix things that the other techs can't fix.

  • Brenda

    For the past week out of the blue bad signal/data problems now get 1x mostly getting booted off. Sprint says nothing is wrong in my area, and still living same place millville, nj. I hope they resolve these issues or I'm going with different Carrier.

  • http://'epfjg s:Lfj;’sfdjg’sodgv

    SPRINT , The worst provider I have
    ever had. Im finnally free of all sprints
    BullShit. For months Ive had nothing but
    serious problems, Bad Tech support, bad
    network problems. I filed a report with FCC
    and Sprint had to let me out of my Contract.
    I lost alot of money with sprint.

    • Hoffagotti

      I filed a complaint with FCC also about a month ago, nothing happened yet.... how did you get out of the contract? help me Obi Wan Kenobi you are my only hope

  • gopher_otis

    I'm getting premium dialup in my area as well. 32726 & 34788 How do I find out if NV is coming to me?

  • Rob

    Artem is there anything new to report since this article posted? I am on Sprint with abyssmal data speeds in New England. I had to get an Airave just to help with signal at my home. I've been promised June and now September for NV upgrades via their TRV Escalations Dept. I've set a hard deadline of Dec 31st for a meaningful fix or I'm out. Thanks for the indepth and informative article, BTW.

  • cruiser

    Hope some gets done soon or I am going to jump ship myself. My 3G has been the pits for a few months now. Was told a tower upgrade was due the end of Oct '12. Have seen no improvement but it has gotten worse an can't get a staight answer from anyone at tech center or the tech store. But this artical sure gave lots of answers, thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/WillieFDiazSF William Diaz

    Feb 2013 San Francisco and Peninsula to San Jose and in SJ itself... signal is stronger but speed still just as bad as the day the article was written

  • Sprint is Still horrible

    It's late 2013... nothing has changed. Just thought you should know.

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