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What's in the Box? Oh, oh, oh, it's Magic.

lilotimz

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Tim Yu

Sprint 4G Rollout Updates

May 19, 2017 - 8:30 AM PDT

 

The Sprint Magic Box was announced on Sprint's quarterly earning call earlier this month, and was heralded as the first truly all wireless small cell in the industry. So what is this mystical beast that is purported to increase coverage by up to 30,000 square feet, amplifies data speeds, and "boosts" your data signal?

This is the 1st Generation Sprint Magic Box

 

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In more technical terms, the Magic Box is an Airspan product under their Airunity line. The black colored model that exists in the wild, and which I procured contains the Airspan Airunity 540 small cell eNB. Whereas the white colored Magic Box advertised by Sprint is a newer model that contains the Airspan Airunity 545 small cell eNB. The primarily difference is that the unreleased white Magic Box is able to broadcast at twice the transmit power compared to the black model which results in substantially increased coverage area in addition to the LTE UE Relay Module having HPUE capability.

These are all wireless small cells as there is no requirement of a wired backhaul solution like traditional Femto cells like the pending Sprint Airave 3 LTE, Commscope S1000, or the T-mobile LTE Cellspot.

Instead, the Magic Box (MB) utilizes a technology called LTE UE Relay that is integrated into the overall package. The Magic Box contains an Airunity LTE B41 2500 MHz small cell and a LTE UE Relay device called the ninja module whose only job is to establish a data link to a macro eNB LTE 1900 or 2500 MHz signal and then feed a data connection to the Airunity small cell.

For more on LTE UE Relay: see here

Once the Relay link is connected and data flows to the Airunity eNB, a new LTE 2500 MHz signal is then created and broadcasted from the unit. This signal is unique to the Magic Box and is available to use by any compatible Sprint device that can access the LTE Plus (2500 MHz LTE B41) network.

Unlike a repeater setup, the Magic Box does not simply take an existing signal and amplify it and all the accompanying noise and interference. This is a brand new and very clean LTE signal being broadcasted.

The following screenshot from Network Signal Guru app displays this clearly.

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The Magic Box in my location broadcasts a brand new LTE carrier with frequency located on EARFCN 40270 (2558 MHz) while the macro donor eNB signal of 40978 (2628 MHz) is used as backhaul (LTE Band 25 1900 MHz can also be used).

[As of July 2017, the Magic Box had its LTE carrier center frequency switched to 2518.4 MHz or EARFCN 39874. Signal Check Pro screenshot]

This means, instead of a weak edge of cell LTE signal with the accompanying band switching that substantially impact device stand by times and I may lose deep inside the building, a Magic Box allows a Sprint device to connect to a strong and clean LTE 2500 MHz signal which blankets the formerly weak LTE coverage area.

As a side effect, LTE speeds may also be dramatically increased due to the better signal level and quality being broadcasted by the MB whose LTE Relay Module can connect to what may have been previously an unusable 2500 MHz network. Especially when placed by a window as recommended.

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Album of Screenshots

Personal Experience

In my more than one month of observations using the Magic Box, I was able to connect to a LTE 2500 MHz signal from inside a suburban family residential building where such a signal was previously unusable. Furthermore, not only did the Magic Box boost the data signal from weak edge of cell service with consistent frequency swapping that had previously killed our devices battery life, but it also increased the LTE data speeds substantially to the tune of 200-300% over what we were previously getting over LTE 800 and 1900 MHz.

Whereas previously the house was a weak coverage area where LTE 800 MHz was predominant with even parts dropping to EVDO 3G, the new LTE signal broadcasted by the MB covers the entire house and then some through multiple interior walls and even an exterior brick wall before handing over back to the macro network.

So what's my view on the Magic Box?

It can't come soon™ enough for more people to use and enjoy.

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Great article.  Any idea how Voice is handled?  Does the Magic Box provide 1x Voice via 800, 1900 or does voice have to fall back to the tower?

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Great article.  Any idea how Voice is handled?  Does the Magic Box provide 1x Voice via 800, 1900 or does voice have to fall back to the tower?
It's Data only.
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It's Data only.

 

For now.  It will become voice too when VoLTE goes live.   ;)

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For now.  It will become voice too when VoLTE goes live.   ;)

True, and as you have mentioned before, this might be the device that accelerates its (VoLTE) deployment.

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Are they launching this by market or full nationwide soon.

It's done on a person-by-person basis.

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Do existing Airrave users have any priority?

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Do existing Airrave users have any priority?

 

No.

 

Priority for airave 3? Yes.

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Great photos!


 


I had posted the following info on the Central Valley Market thread.  lilotimz pointed me to this thread.


 


--------------------------------------------


 


The Sprint Magic Box is made by AirSpan.  It is their AirUnity product:


 


http://www.airspan.com/airunity/


 


And here is a little more detailed info, including photos of the bottom of the unit:


 


https://fccid.io/doc....php?id=3281384


 


https://fccid.io/PIDAU545ENB25


 


It says that it is 2.506-2.68 GHz and 596 mW.  That's 27.8 dBm and LTE Band 41.


 


And here is the AirUnity (Sprint Magic Box) FCC Label:


 


https://fccid.io/doc....php?id=3281386


 


And details on the antenna (it appears to be a grid of 6 antennas; presumably a MIMO configuration):


 


https://fccid.io/doc....php?id=3281378


 


 


There appear to be 6 U.FL connectors for the antennas.  And 9 dBi isn't too bad...


 


The power draw says 4.3 Volts at 2 Amps.  That is a lower voltage than I would have guessed for this kind of box...


 


 


The User's Manual and internal photos will be available from that site in August 2017.


 


Scott

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Has anyone actually received one or have been contacted by Sprint yet? I signed up for one the day after the announcement and haven't heard anything yet. 

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I haven't received mine yet. According to Sprint (Andrew S.) this morning, the Sprint Magic Boxes aren't shipping yet.  He couldn't tell me where I was in the queue, nor what the prioritization was.

 

Scott

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Got called up today to be told that my Pixel didn't support B41. I argued otherwise, something to the effect of "I've had three generations of B41-capable phones, and my current one supports B41 + CA thankyouverymuch". After a few minutes on hold, the rep told me that they'd send a second-gen unit out in several (6-8 I think?) weeks. :D

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Has anyone actually received one or have been contacted by Sprint yet? I signed up for one the day after the announcement and haven't heard anything yet. 

I received a call on May 12th, and the lady told me it would be about 6-8 weeks.

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I got an email that my request is being evaluated.

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For now.  It will become voice too when VoLTE goes live.   ;)

Apparently is has become voice already, just not VoLTE... 

 

The answer to the first question of the Magic Box FAQ https://www.sprint.com/content/Sprint/sprint_com/us/en/shop/services/magic-box/status.html#faqs

refers you to the Sprint Calling PLUS web page https://www.sprint.com/content/Sprint/sprint_com/us/en/shop/services/wi-fi-calling.html#calling-plus

which states "Calling PLUS combines Sprint’s Wi-Fi Calling capabilities with the ability to use the LTE data network for calls." 

 

Looking at the Calling PLUS FAQ https://www.sprint.com/content/Sprint/sprint_com/us/en/support/solutions/services/faqs-about-calling-plus.html, the fifth question is "Is Calling PLUS the same as VoLTE (Voice over LTE)?", which is answered "No, the current Calling PLUS solution provides VoIP capabilities using the Sprint LTE network."

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Got a call on Thursday July 13, to verify shipping info.  Looks like it is on the way.  No tracking number.

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Got a call yesterday to verify shipping info.

 

I was told they expect to start shipping out in about 8 weeks. I did not ask where in the queue I was. 

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i just got an email today from Sprint saying I should receive my Magic box in 2-3 weeks.

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The magic box came in today while I was at work and she set it up. She has reported that everything is 5 bars on LTE. I will give an update tomorrow on the speed test when I get home tonight.

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My shipment arrives tomorrow. (8/22/2017)   2 day Air UPS Currently in Louisville waiting for the flight tonight to San Diego or maybe Ontario. 

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Got my Magic Box about a week ago - set it up and it wouldn't provision in any window I put it in.  Called last night, entered a ticket.  Got a call back today saying I'm not in a Magic Box area and never should have been sent one.  This make me sad.....

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  • Wall Comments

    • Ah... to get back to test-the-window mode, first we select Shutdown from the menu.  That shuts the unit down and gets it back to the original state (that it arrived in the box).  Then hold down the hidden button on the front for 5 seconds and wait for the unit to power back up.  Then I can access test-the-window mode again. Funny thing is that when I take the Magic Box outside and point it directly at the cell tower, the maximum that I get is 12 (out of 100).  But when I put it in a particular window, I can get 16.  So I'm using that.  It is still showing Band 25, but SpeedTest is reporting a better number now than I had before in a different window.  Scott Thanks,    
    • I can do the menu option and 30-second power cycle to restart, but how do I get back to the initial test-the-window mode? Also, lilotimz's screenshots show Relay on Band 41.  But my Relay screen shows Band 25.  My understanding was the the Magic Box only worked on Band 41 based on the Sprint FAQ:   https://community.sprint.com/t5/tkb/articleprintpage/tkb-id/MagicBox%40tkb/article-id/1 Will my phone work with Magic Box? Magic Box operates on LTE 2.5GHz frequency (Band 41), so only devices with this capability will work with it.  Most newer smartphones will work but you'll need to check your device's specifications for LTE 2.5 GHz to be sure. So how do I get back to test-the-window mode?  And how do I get my Magic Box to Band 41 ?  I've tried different windows, rotating it 90 degrees, and angling it.  It seems to always prefer Band 25.  I do have Band 41 here, but Band 25 seems stronger... Thanks, Scott      
    • I'd recommend trying to run setup again.  I've found that the MB picks up far better B41 signal than my phone does.  
    • ...Also, the 3 screens are accessible by touching the screen, then selecting GPS, LTE, or Relay.  The 4 menu options are accessible by touching the little square icon in the upper-right corner.   Scott  
    • I received my Sprint Magic Box and hooked it up.  I was never able to get the "button" that the two arrows point to to work, so I plugged it in. It took about 20 minutes to initialize and lock-in.  There are 3 screens:  GPS, LTE, Relay. On the Relay screen, it says Band 25.  I assume that means that it is communicating with the Sprint tower on Band 25.   But I thought the whole point was to use Band 41. I tried a couple of different windows, and even flipped the unit sideways to see if it made any difference.  The signal to my cell phone went from -114 to -64, so the Magic Box certainly helps with the indoor signal. That's to be expected; according to the front panel, the Magic Box is transmitting a 25 dBm signal.  However, my Speedtest speed is still 4 Mbps. Other than the 3 screens (GPS, LTE, Relay), and the 4 menu options (Change Time Format, More Info, Other Actions, Re-Run Setup), I can't find any other settings. One of the screens says that the Magic Box Technical Support phone number is 844-463-3194, but I haven't tried calling yet.  I don't want them to say, "it doesn't work for you, mail it back".   Is there any way to lock the Magic Box to Band 41 ?    Sprint's Magic Box checker said that I'm in an eligible zone, the coverage map shows I'm in a Band 41 zone, and prior to the Magic box my phone communicated with the Sprint tower on Band 41.  But for the past 3 days , the Relay screen says that the Magic Box is on Band 25. With correspondingly with poor Mbps. Thanks, Scott  
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