Sprint intentionally blocking new LTE devices from accessing live LTE sites
by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Monday, April 23, 2012 - 6:14 PM MDT
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates is keeping track of all the live LTE sites in the country. And as of last Friday, there are now approximately 200 LTE sites that are "On-Air." S4GRU's AJ Shepherd even has verified some of these LTE sites are live using his spectrum analyzer. Sprint is indeed broadcasting LTE on PCS G-Block, just as we are indicating.
S4GRU.com is now able to confirm why new Sprint LTE device holders are unable to connect to live LTE sites in Waco, Dallas/Ft.Worth, Atlanta, Athens, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio. Sprint is intentionally blocking LTE access at this time. The reasons why they are doing this aren't totally clear.
LTE Testing mode is not for you, folks
Sprint is keeping sites that are on the air, but identified as "testing" from being discoverable by Sprint LTE devices. As they deem each site is ready to carry commercial traffic, they will change the LTE site from testing mode to commercial mode. At that time, they will become discoverable to LTE device holders.
Sprint recently considered two different ways to block their customers from accessing the LTE network. Either by creating a special PLMN ID, or by modifying the SIB 1 message to notify the LTE device the "Cell is Reserved for Operator Use." Using the PLMN method was figured to be too problematic, because the network only is capable of two PLMN ID's currently, which would limit other PLMN ID uses in the future. So Sprint is blocking your LTE devices from cruising the 4G LTE network by modifying the SIB 1 message being broadcast from the LTE site to "Reserved." When your device gets that message, it will not try to authenticate with the network. And you are none the wiser that your device is getting a 4G LTE signal that it is not allowed to use. When Sprint is ready to allow a LTE site to be discoverable, they will remove the reserved classification from the SIB 1 message...and voila!
I guess the big question in all this is...WHY? Why not make these LTE sites discoverable and usable for Sprint customers with LTE devices right now? I cannot tell you with certainty. In some instances, it could be backhaul related. In some instances, it could be related to the 4G LTE core. In some instances, it could be related to eHRPD integration. It may be that the customer experience is not where they think you will tolerate. I have seen errant comments regarding all of these issues. But none being specifically outed as the culprit in not allowing LTE discoverability now.
However, one thing that is known, our source says that their Strategic Marketing and Network Management are working together now to establish the criteria for when a site is eligible to be discoverable. When that criteria is established here in the very near future, and a site meets the agreed to criteria, the sites will become live. Until then, this is the steadfast rule for Sprint LTE site availability, "Site will remain hidden from customer use until directed by business teams to be made commercially available."
There are very widely scattered reports that a site here or a site there has active LTE available to customers. Including one report this weekend in Kansas City. These may be valid. It's possible that some sites are incorrectly configured and not blocking traffic as they should. Or, it's possible these few select sites are ready to go and are now "discoverable." Please make sure you notify S4GRU and provide the screen shots should you get access to a Sprint LTE site.
Live LTE sites as of Friday, April 20, 2012. Almost 200 sites. Sprint is not allowing access at this time. Click on map to enlarge.