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Need some advice from someone with the "long view"


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I have been with Sprint for ever - like back to the Motorola brick with the 4" fixed rubber antenna days. I've never switched carriers, ever. But I am not a Sprint fanboy either. They've just met my needs. I need some educated advice - not the kind you get from typical Sprint forums.

 

I have been very frustrated lately with Sprint's 3G performance in many markets, including my own of Des Moines, IA. I understand Sprint is in a growing pains stage with 3G as they try to implement Network Vision. I am willing to ride those growing pains out, to a degree if I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

I just that I am just trying to figure out where the line is for me.

 

I am resigned to the fact that I probably won't see 4G LTE here until late 2013 or 2014. But I am also not necessarily the type of user that feels that I MUST have 4G either. Good, solid 3G meets most of my needs, supplemented with WIFI. So, I think I am fine with not seeing LTE for quite awhile.

 

I have 4 devices on my line. I am at a rare point where I could start a transition to Verizon on September 1st. I could move 2 of my lines on that date, with the other 2 to follow in 1 year. This is not a financial decision for me - the costs of doing this are fine.

 

I am "supposed" to have Sprint 3G coverage in pretty much every area of the Country of interest to me. Whether I do or not in reality depends on where Sprint is with their 3G growing pains. At the same time, by reviewing Verizon's coverage map, I'd have 4G in all of those same markets. But I also understand that maps are theoretical and that Verizon could have coverage complaints too.

 

My first question is: does Network Vision provide for some hope for 3G improvements even in markets that are not destined to have LTE for several years? Or do existing 3G problems stay with us until the market becomes a LTE market?

 

Second question is: is there something inherently better about Sprint's network strategy such that the long view suggests that in a couple years, when it is implemented, that Sprint makes sense to be the carrier of choice?

 

I like the fact that data is unlimited. But in reality, I could spend $40 - $50 more per month with Verizon and be more than covered for my current data usage of my 4 Sprint lines. I am willing to spend that money for better service.

 

Just looking for some advice I guess to make the right long term carrier decision.

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Sprint has been rolling out bandaid fixes to it's 3G network in many markets to help with some of the problems they are facing now. Looking briefly at the fixes in your market they are still rolling some out (https://network.sprint.com/IA/Des-Moines/). Once those are done you will get some relief, but the real 3G improvements won't be in place until largely around the time the market becomes an LTE market. The NV 3G is supposed to provide 20% more coverage and have access to much faster backhaul.

 

In 2013, when Sprint starts widely deploying 1X and LTE on their 800mhz spectrum you will see massive improvements in coverage, but again that will depend on if NV has already taken place in your area.

 

Long story short there is a light at the end of the tunnel and Sprint is really going to see some massive improvements, but the fact of the matter is that Verizon is already a great carrier. If you pay for Verizon you're going to get what you pay for. My girlfriend uses Verizon so I get to compare her service to my Sprint service a lot and the difference in coverage and performance really is shocking (although I hope NV closes that gap a lot). Verizon easily has the largest coverage footprint nationwide and has a huge lead with their LTE deployment. I've been pretty happy with Sprint until very recently so I am going to give NV a chance, but if you're willing to pay Verizon's premium (I think that shared data plan is horrendous) and part with unlimited data then you should do it.

 

Hope that helps some. Good luck!

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You will find all the information you need on this website to find the answers to your questions. A lot is going to vary by market though.

 

There are currently nationwide enhancements being installed on the legacy network. Be it backhaul, or additional carriers, there is a lot of work going into bringing the network back up to respectability. Many areas that have been upgraded have had people reporting that their data rates have gotten better. Some areas have ended up with small improvements, others have seen vast improvements. It all depends on how well the problem was diagnosed. If additional backhaul capacity was needed, but an insufficient number of T1 lines were added, there will not be much change realized. Then in this example, it would be another wait for backhaul, as it takes some time after ordering the backhaul to have it installed by the vendor.

 

As far as the network, I strongly believe that Sprint is looking more and more like they will have the best network of all the carriers when network vision is complete.

 

 

It is way more intensive than I want to go into right now, but the combination of 800, 1900 and clearwire's 2500/2600 spectrum is going to give Sprint range, building penetration, capacity and extreme capacity when you add the clearwire hotspots.

 

Verizon's 700mhz gave them a huge advantage for rolling out their LTE network fast. It takes 4 cell sites broadcasting on 1900mhz to cover the area that can be covered by one 700mhz site. This really only translates well for rural areas though, as you will quickly overload your cell sites in large cities and currently, the only remedy is to reduce the size of the cell and add more smaller cells to the previously covered area. It appears that Verizon is going back and thickening their cell cites now and giving their network more capacity, but Sprint is deploying on every site from the start. Then when they kill off Nextel, they will be deploying 800 on nearly all their cell sites as well. This will give them the building penetration, and range in rural areas negating the advantage that Verizon held.

 

Then once LTE adoption becomes widespread, and the LTE carriers start getting full, the reliance on 3G will be greatly reduced, allowing Sprint to free up spectrum to add more LTE carriers in 1900. They also have a contract with Clearwire where Clearwire will add their LTE sites, upon request by Sprint, to overworked Sprint's towers to give them a cell within a cell that will offload capacity from the 800/1900 LTE carriers. Clearwire has a large swath of spectrum that will give blazing speed and support a LOT of users.

 

Verizon's only current option is to hope that their purchase of spectrum from the cable co's is approved so they can add another LTE carrier in the AWS band.

 

Yes, Verizon has a larger nationwide footprint and larger LTE footprint, right now, but Sprint is definately on the right track, and once they return to profitability, they may begin expanding to have a footprint to rival Verizon.

 

I would say, short term (1-3 years), Verizon is a more attractive carrier with a more mature network, but long term (3-10 years) Sprint is certainly set up to be better than Verizon.

 

Also, to be considered, is that Verizon has to upgrade the hardware at their towers for LTE-Advanced and "true 4G" where sprint can upgrade with a software update.

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Excellent, excellent responses. Thank you to both. As an electrical engineer, but not related to the cellular industry, I like facts and logic. I appreciate your technical logic pyroscott. I currently have a 5GB MIFI wtih Verizon through work and the more that I think about it after reading both of your posts, the more that I think that I currently have the best of both worlds. If pyroscott's long view of the Sprint technology is correct, then I the ability to benefit from my long relationship with Sprint while being able to supplement with the Verizon MIFI when I get into trouble on Sprint. Given that I know that Verizon would be +$50 if I switched, I could add a regional 4G MIFI with maybe US Cellular for $25 and supplement my wife's Sprint phone for awhile too if necessary. I'd still be financially ahead and not give up the long term benefits of Sprint or the unlimited data.

 

One piece of information that I didn't find here after reading and searching is to try and validate my premise that Des Moines will likely be a long wait for LTE - late 2013 / early 2014. Anyone have any better insight on that premise?

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Des Moines is either a round 3 or 4 market as all markets in Round 1 and 2 have been announced by Sprint already. There is one thing that is pretty much guaranteed and thats that all markets should start construction before the end of 2013. Almost all sites will be complete before end of 2013 and the rest of the sites will finish up early 2014. So there's a very good chance that Des Moines will start in 2013 sometime but we don't know when yet. We will know later this year

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