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Tim YuSprint 4G Rollout UpdatesWednesday, September 12, 2018 - 12:45 PM PDT [Edit] It has come to the attention of S4GRU that the Magic Box also supports CDMA Voice Today, Sprint announced the newest Magic Box™ to the world. This Magic Box was first spotted in early summer and S4GRU did a quick write up on it here. Today's announcement formally revealed what new technologies this 3rd Generation public release will give to us. The highlights: This is some huge stuff here especially for technology nerds! Previous Magic Box's only utilized LTE UE Relay for backhaul up to 2 carrier aggregation at 2x2 MIMO at 64 QAM modulation. With 3 CA, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO, this new Magic Box has the same capability as a Gigabit Class device on the Sprint™ network! In addition the notes about Wi-FI connection working for backhaul are huge. Sprint Band 25 or Band 41 may not reach indoors or even in some neighborhoods due to macro coverage patterns even though a Magic Box is available to use in a region. By having the option to use locally supplied internet via WiFi as backhaul, this allows Magic Boxes to enter locations where LTE UE Relay does not work. In addition, the ethernet port tidbit may also be a hint that using ethernet backhaul could also be an option. If so, this Magic Box would potentially support 3 choices of backhaul all in one unit; LTE UE Relay, WiFi, and Ethernet! Wow! With the coming arrival of VoLTE opt in in the near future, LTE coverage indoors is a huge concern. The now expanded reach of this new Magic Box into places previously unreachable is a huge step forward. Exciting! Sprint and Airspan sure loves Magic!
Tim YuSprint 4G Rollout UpdatesDecember 11, 2017 - 9:30 PM PST Recently, individuals who ordered Magic Boxes noticed a change in the product code of the unit to AU544 from AU545. It is now confirmed that the product code change is due to the release of the 3rd generation Magic Box. They are now being shipped! The new revision is in essence a GEN2 optimized with a high quality LCD touchscreen display like that of the 1st Generation AU540. In addition, an external battery pack with an adapter to hook onto the Magic Box is now provided. It can be lugged around for testing purposes instead of internal batteries. In addition, the touch power on button of the GEN2 has been removed with power on sequence done by plugging in power to the unit via a battery pack with an adapter or via the AC power brick. Performance wise, the GEN 3 is identical to the GEN 2 in that they still utilize the Airspan Airunity 545 small cell eNB and a Ninja LTE Relay module. The product designation change from 545 to 544 is primarily due to a change in the WiFi module to a different Qualcomm WiFi module. But for what matters to Sprint users, the LTE B41 performance impact as noted from GEN 1 and subsequently the GEN 2 are identical. GEN 2 users will not be left behind in performance wise. Previous generation device owners will not be missing out on much! For those that are getting the Magic Box for the first time, welcome to the party! Here's pictures of the GEN 3 (AU544MBGN2) courtesy of @bucdenny
Tim Yu Sprint 4G Rollout Updates September 28, 2017 - 2:30 PM PDT [Edit: 4/6/18: Reflects Airave 3 discontinuation] It has been 6 months since I first learned of and received access to what is now called the GEN1 Magic Box. I wrote up my thoughts about it a few months back. Sprint has now evolved to a GEN 2 Magic Box model. These units are being distributed to customers who preordered after Sprint's announcements. I've now acquired a GEN2 Magic Box myself. Upon opening the package, the most immediate and noticeable difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Magic Box is the absence of an external portable battery. This was useful to lug the Magic Box around and test different locations in order to select the best spot for unit placement. On the surface this may appear to be a way to decrease unit costs. This may be true, but the Gen 2 model contains two CR18650 rechargeable lithium batteries integrated inside of the package for the same purpose. No more using a dongle and a hefty battery pack that could be easily lost! [2nd Generation Magic Box white colored on left, 1st Generation Magic Box black colored on right[ Along with the new internal guts, the external aesthetics and materials were also modified. The Gen 1 model had a super bright LCD display with a black front surrounding by white plastic. The new Gen 2 model has an eInk display with a touch power button below it on the front with the entire exterior being a reflective polished hard plastic. What didn't change is the GEN2 is still an all wireless small cell with no requirement of hard wired backhaul supplied by the user. It still uses LTE UE Relay to acquire an existing Band 25 1900 MHz or Band 41 2500 MHz connection from an existing donor site, which is then fed to the small cell unit and broadcasted as a new LTE Band 41 2500 MHz carrier. The LTE Relay unit supports up to 2 carrier aggregation on Band 41 to the macro donor site. Now to the meaty parts. The performance. Let these screenshots tell the story. Before After [Apps used: Network Signal Guru, Signalcheck Pro, Ookla Speedtest] The extremely significant data speed and signal improvements that were experienced by the original Magic Box still exist with the 2nd generation unit. The GEN2 matches and exceeds the performance of my original Magic Box, especially in the upload category. This is due to the newer LTE Relay module design which utilizes a higher gain antenna. A very satisfactory model upgrade. It upholds the positive impressions I outlined in my original article. These units just can't come out fast enough so that more people can enjoy it! The Magic Box is not a panacea, but is a very good solution in many locations. Now that thousands of these preordered boxes are hitting the streets in countless different deployment scenarios, lots of limitations and bugs are being discovered. With varying impacts. The Magic Box doesn't work for everyone everywhere due to the very nature of its all wireless design. In most places, it works as advertised. Just power up and let it rip. In a few locations there is something lacking which causes units to not fully configure. This results in errors such as the infamous "20% initialization" or "cannot connect to mobile network" screens that pop up. We researched, asked questions and were informed that Sprint's LTE Relay configuration is of the out of band variety. This means that the LTE UE Relay operation and the small cell eNB signal has to operate on different frequencies. So in Sprint's case, a market must have Band 41 High and Low separation in order for a LTE Relay to work. Thus, Sprint must have spectrum in the Band 41 low range (2500-2570 MHz) and the Band 41 high range (2620-2690). If a Sprint market does not have said spectrum with such a separation, the relay link cannot be established and the Magic Box will not work. In markets where such spectrum peculiarities exist and areas where the macro 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz RF signal is not strong enough to establish a LTE Relay backhaul connection for the Magic Box, there exists other alternatives available from Sprint. These alternatives are the Airave 3 LTE and Commscope S1000 NSC which will be offered to subscribers who do not qualify for a Magic Box or in a location where the Magic Box does not work. The subscriber will require a home broadband connection in those instances. (Left: Airave 3 LTE, Right: S1000 NSC; credit: ingenium & pwnedkiller) The Airave 3 LTE is the traditional CDMA + LTE Band 41 + WiFi femto cell. It is the successor the Airaves of old. The Commscope S1000 NSC is a LTE Band 41 + WiFi only femto cell which is in essence the Airave 3 minus the CDMA capabilities. If a subscriber desires voice and data enhancement then the Airave 3 should be what the subscriber seeks. If the subscriber does not need voice enhancement due to sufficient macro voice coverage but need 4G LTE data enhancement, then the S1000 NSC would be a better fit. There is a solution for just about everyone now. There now exists an all wireless self configuring LTE small cell, a state of the art and award winning LTE small cell, and which when paired with a CDMA module produces the newest successor in the Airave family. All of which will bring extreme improvements that Sprint subscribers can realize instantly. The densification of Sprint's network is now beginning and it all begins with one quite magic(al) box. Album of the Magic Box