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Any idea on why the Sprint network degraded so quickly?


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I was just looking over subscriber numbers.

 

Here are the ones from Q4 2010:

  • The company served 49.9 million customers at the end of the fourth quarter of 2010. This includes 33.1 million postpaid subscribers (27.07 million via the Sprint brand on CDMA, 5.67 million on iDEN, and 374,000 PowerSource users who utilize both networks), 12.3 million prepaid subscribers (8.53 million onCDMA and 3.74 million on iDEN) and approximately 4.5 million wholesale and affiliate subscribers, all of whom utilize our CDMA network.

 

 

And here are the ones from Q4 2011:

 

Net subscribers now total 55 million, with 33 million postpaid, 14.8 million prepaid and around 7.2 million arriving from wholesale,

 

I also find it sad that Sprints postpaid stayed the same, and all the adds, were prepaid and wholesale. (majority wholesale. thats got to hurt)

 

I don't remember hearing a ton of complaints in 2010 of horrible data speeds, and people ranting constantly on the official forums and elsewhere.

 

I just find it hard to believe that 5 million adds spread over the whole USA could bring the network to its knees like it seems to have. So I was just wondering if it is solely the 5mil adds in that year, or if there was possibly something else we might be missing.

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We are missing something. In Pahrump about 2-3 years ago I noticed that Sprint's network was crippled. When I switched a year ago I gave Sprint the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe it was just the data card that was to blame. However, it wasn't. Nobody really noticed how crippled Sprint really was until after the Evo 4G was released and Sprint started to gain popularity.

 

(This is just my personal opinion based partly on my experience, and the other part may just be total speculation.)

Edited by Macinjosh
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I don't think the total number of subscribers has anything to do with it. However, the percentage of those users on smartphones likely does. There is a huge number of people upgrading/converting from basic "dumb-phones" to data-hungry smartphones... so, basically, too many EVO's and iPhones are on the network now. You're right, in 2010, data speeds were great, speeds often in excess of 2MB down on 3G (at least here in PHX and everywhere else my extensive, daily travels brought me), but have declined since.

 

I believe that the Network Vision upgrades Sprint is currently implementing will improve all of this... which is one of the things it is designed to do.

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Umm, didn't think of they numbers of people upgrading to smart phones and using 3G data. I guess that is mostly to blame.

 

Just was wondering if there was anything else behind the curtain that might be missing. I know I am not blaming it on the iphone. Speeds here where I live had started to go to crap well before the iphone was released.

 

The iphone is also a postpaid plan phone. And sadly even with the big iphone sales. Sprints postpaid subscribers stayed the same. So not sure how many were new sprint customers, or just current sprint customers moving over to the iphone from blackberrys and such.

 

If it really is just a subscribers numbers thing. I feel sorry for sprint. Because the majority of the adds listed for them are wholesale customers. Would really suck if wholesale customers (who sprint makes the least amount of money on), are the reason for thier network crashing and losing good long term postpaid (bread and butter) subscribers.

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Umm, didn't think of they numbers of people upgrading to smart phones and using 3G data. I guess that is mostly to blame.

 

Just was wondering if there was anything else behind the curtain that might be missing. I know I am not blaming it on the iphone. Speeds here where I live had started to go to crap well before the iphone was released.

 

The iphone is also a postpaid plan phone. And sadly even with the big iphone sales. Sprints postpaid subscribers stayed the same. So not sure how many were new sprint customers, or just current sprint customers moving over to the iphone from blackberrys and such.

 

If it really is just a subscribers numbers thing. I feel sorry for sprint. Because the majority of the adds listed for them are wholesale customers. Would really suck if wholesale customers (who sprint makes the least amount of money on), are the reason for thier network crashing and losing good long term postpaid (bread and butter) subscribers.

 

The evo 4g was just one of those phones that everyone had to have. The evo 4g was the first sprint phone I have seen so many other people with other than seeing random att/verizon iphones. When I had an apache, mogul, touch diamond, touch pro or touch pro 2, it was rare for me to see another user with one of those phones but after the evo came out, every single day I would see multiple people using it as well. So as far as my opinion as to why why things went down hill so quickly is because of the popularity of the evo. When going from my touch pro 2 to the evo my data consumption literally tripled from one month to the next. Now you can only imagine how much more those iphones will add to the current problem.

 

As far as subscribers though, one thing thats almost impossible to calculate is customer retention. Lets imagine for a minute that sprint never released the evo 4g, lets also imagine that sprint didn't carry the iphone. How much do you think subscriber numbers would have decreased? I can't say for sure but with out the evo and iphone to keep current customers happy, sprint would be in even more trouble than they are in now.

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Basically in mid-2010, the Evo was to Sprint what the iPhone was in 2007 to AT&T: the first popular smartphone that led to conversion from dumb phones (or even smart-ish phones like the Instinct) that used little data and had few apps to the true smartphone world. Smartphone adoption increased to today's 65% on Sprint's network. At the time (prior to 2010), Sprint used T1 bundles to provide backhaul. That is sufficient when only 2-4 people are on a tower or sector pulling occasional data: browsing the web, etc. are occasional uses so they don't draw data continuously. When you have smartphones and people streaming music and/or video (these are continuous uses-- the data channel is needed for steady data non-stop) and now you have 50 - 150 people using data per sector, this isn't a meaningful amount of backhaul. Basically, 10-12 Pandora users will saturate a T1-- and this is continuous data usage. Of course, you also have to deploy sufficient EVDO carriers in each sector to handle this load and keep the number of concurrent users per sector/channel to a dozen or fewer. Sprint spent virtually nothing on expansion, backhaul, or carrier deployment in 2009 or 2010. They didn't start spending money on their network until 2011. Now they're playing catch up.

 

My market and nearby tower are a prime example: in June 2010, when Sprint first deployed EVDO (because we were losing native Alltel roaming), they had 1 single carrier with maybe a single T1 per sector shared with the 1x channel. There are dozens of large office buildings in this area and a bunch of Evos started coming on line. Our data speeds were below 10 kilobits all day long. On October 15, 2010, they approved an upgrade project to add carriers to the tower. The first additional EVDO carrier went online on that tower on May 27, 2011; unfortunately, they didn't seem to add any backhaul with it as speeds didn't climb above 250. Additional backhaul didn't come online until September 19, 2011, over a year after dozens of trouble tickets on the tower were made. They added another EV carrier to it in February and plan to add another at the end of March. Maybe they should've planned for the number of users a year or so earlier and provided the carriers and backhaul before they drove people (like me) to big red.

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I don't think the total number of subscribers has anything to do with it. However, the percentage of those users on smartphones likely does. There is a huge number of people upgrading/converting from basic "dumb-phones" to data-hungry smartphones... so, basically, too many EVO's and iPhones are on the network now. You're right, in 2010, data speeds were great, speeds often in excess of 2MB down on 3G (at least here in PHX and everywhere else my extensive, daily travels brought me), but have declined since.

 

I believe that the Network Vision upgrades Sprint is currently implementing will improve all of this... which is one of the things it is designed to do.

 

nailed it....doesn't have anything to do with the # of subs, its all about the amount of data those same # of subs are pulling wayyyyy more data than they were before.

 

Hell I had a Nextel i95cl back in the day and thought it was the best phone on earth. The amount of data I pulled with that thing was minuscule compared to the MotoQ I upgraded to, and even still with either of those devices I pulled probably 1000x more data when I got to my EVO4G...Unless you prepare for the kind of data the devices are going to be capable of pulling then you end up in the situation we are in right now...

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Maybe they should've planned for the number of users a year or so earlier and provided the carriers and backhaul before they drove people (like me) to big red.

 

Bingo. Sprint hyped the EVO and similar devices knowing they used many times more data than dumbphones and did not rmove quickly enough to ramp up data capacity. You could argue that it was impossible to forsee how quickly customers would move from dumbphones to smart devices in 2010/2011. But having seen what AT&T went through with the iPhone, Sprint should have had plans in place to react faster when it became apparent this was happening.

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One thing that is good to understand that in most cases on a wireless network, the difference between pass and fail, especially on data, are so close together.

 

A sector at 90% of design capacity at peak times, runs fine with acceptable performance. No complaints. But if that same sector pushes out to 110%, then chaos and poor performance results.

 

And Sprint pushed many sites well beyond 110% with no meaningful capex spending for two years.

 

So it isn't too difficult to fathom how there were so many sites running at 90% to 100% prior to the Evo. And the Evo pushed thousands of sites over the edge performance wise. Often, without even adding subscribers. And then after the Evo, many sites that were running less than 90% previously, were now pushed into the 90's near a pass/fail threshold. So add an iPhone and increase data use some more, and voila, another 10k sites are pushed over the threshold.

 

That's why so many people said they didn't have any problems with the network until the iPhone. And why others disagree and say the problem existed since the Evo. They both are right. They are just explaining how it was in their local segment.

 

Enhanced backhaul and additional carriers will solve most of this issue. And even LTE will help relieve some of the burden off EVDO. But in spectrum constrianed markets, Sprint will have to deploy smaller cells for more permanent lasting solutions in places where backhaul isn't enough and carriers cannot be added.

 

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In addition to Robert's statements above, keep in mind that Sprint had every expectation that WiMAX would meet much of the increased data demand coming down the pike because of uptake of the EVO, the Epic, etc. Of course, as we know all too well, Clearwire failed to live up to that expectation -- failed miserably in multiple ways. So, Sprint has had to play catch up with backhaul, EV-DO, and soon LTE. Unfortunately, that does not happen overnight.

 

AJ

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3G data traffic has doubled every year, even with Clear entering the picture.

 

Jan 2010 saw about 6,000 TB of daily 3G traffic. By Jan 2011, it hit 12,000 TB/day. I have not checked this year, but I bet it is close to 24,000 TB/day.

 

Reducing tower strain will take creativity in addition to increasing capacity. The strain is good in that it forces innovation.

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In addition to Robert's statements above, keep in mind that Sprint had every expectation that WiMAX would meet much of the increased data demand coming down the pike because of uptake of the EVO, the Epic, etc. Of course, as we know all too well, Clearwire failed to live up to that expectation -- failed miserably in multiple ways. So, Sprint has had to play catch up with backhaul, EV-DO, and soon LTE. Unfortunately, that does not happen overnight.

 

AJ

 

I agree, Clear is a fail in my area, so I don't even use WiMax. Can't get it at home and doesn't penetrate my office, but Clear gets my $10 every month. I'm not the exception either from reading the forums for the past year. So except for using Wi-Fi at home, I'm on the EVDO network for data everywhere else.

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I agree, Clear is a fail in my area, so I don't even use WiMax. Can't get it at home and doesn't penetrate my office, but Clear gets my $10 every month.

 

As has been mentioned many times before, the $10/month fee is for premium data not Clearwire, WiMAX, or 4G -- whether or not that was originally the case, it is the case now. And based off of its quarterly reports, Clearwire appears to receive ~$7/mo ARPU for wholesale Sprint subs.

 

AJ

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As has been mentioned many times before, the $10/month fee is for premium data not Clearwire, WiMAX, or 4G -- whether or not that was originally the case, it is the case now. And based off of its quarterly reports, Clearwire appears to receive ~$7/mo ARPU for wholesale Sprint subs.

 

AJ

 

Now does Clearwire get that 7 a month for every wimax phone in use? Just thinking, even though I'd rather not have the fee at all if I'm not in 4G coverage, I do understand its for every smartphone now... I'd just rather see it go to Sprint then Clear for those not in 4G coverage. Just seems like Sprint would put it to better use with NV being deployed. Kinda bogus if Clear gets it in these particular cases.. IMO.

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Now does Clearwire get that 7 a month for every wimax phone in use? Just thinking, even though I'd rather not have the fee at all if I'm not in 4G coverage, I do understand its for every smartphone now... I'd just rather see it go to Sprint then Clear for those not in 4G coverage. Just seems like Sprint would put it to better use with NV being deployed. Kinda bogus if Clear gets it in these particular cases.. IMO.

 

The $10 goes to Sprint but then $7 goes to Clear if you use the 4G service. So in essence Sprint is getting an extra $3 from you if you have a 4G smartphone and live in an area that has Wimax. Obviously Clear can't be charging Sprint the $7 if Wimax is not in that area. However for iPhone users and smartphone non-SERO customers, Sprint is getting an extra $10 from you which I am hoping is funneled back into the Network Vision project. I think the $10 premium data charge is high enough. The last thing I want to see is Sprint tacking on another ridiculous fee after LTE is deployed which would get customers very mad including myself.

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