Faux G: Sprint’s dilemma with an LTE next gen iPhone
The next iPhone is coming; there is no denying that in any way shape or form. When this iPhone does finally see the light of day, it will have support for 4G/LTE networks. AT&T will support it and Verizon Wireless will support it as well. Where does this leave Sprint? You would figure because they currently supply the iPhone4 and 4S that the next gen iPhone with LTE support is all but a done deal right? Well I’m not so sure. Sprint has placed themselves into a very tricky situation and with the iPhone launch coming soon; I would love to know how exactly they plan to tackle this situation.
The iPhone is a blessing and a curse to every carrier who has it or wants to have it. On the plus side, it literally sells itself and brings many new subscribers to the carrier that has it. The downside is that these same carriers have to pay massive subsidies to Apple to push the price down to the $199 or $299 that you as the consumer pay. Now while this is a curse to carriers, despite Android and Windows Phone being less costly alternatives, the iPhone bring people in. Prior to Sprint ever getting the iPhone 4 and 4S last year, Sprint felt it was at a competitive disadvantage for not having the iPhone on their network. Even Sprint could see the effect that the iPhone was having over at AT&T and Verizon.
The irony lies in the fact that Sprint was always behind Android and back in 2010 launched the HTC EVO 4G. This phone was to go toe to with at the time iPhone 3GS, pending the release of the iPhone4. They pushed Android because that was all they had, and carriers have to make a living somehow. The one thing to note is that the iPhone 4 and 4S manufactured with Sprint’s network technology in mind didn’t support WiMAX, Sprint’s “FauxG” network. It’s a good thing Apple didn’t.
Apple never gets behind anything until they feel that it’s good for them as well as their customers. Sprint was all about being first to 4G back in 2010 when it launched the HTC EVO 4G on their new WiMAX network. This was a huge thing. 4G was going to be the next wave in high-speed data transfer, Sprint wanted to be the first to ride the wave, and they did. While they did release 3G phones, they were committed to rolling out WiMAX and devices that would work on this new network. At this time, Verizon, AT&T, and even T-Mobile weren’t thinking about 4G, though I’m sure they were thinking about deployment at some point. Verizon made CES 2011 its own by detailing in full the launch of its 4G/LTE network. This not being WiMAX, true LTE service. AT&T followed suit later in 2011 by starting the rollout of its own LTE network. Fast forward to today and you will see that Verizon and AT&T respectively have the US blanketed in LTE coverage and continue to expand in different areas.
It was at this past years CES that Sprint confirmed that it would not be putting out anymore WiMAX devices. I can’t say that I am truly surprised seeing as the WiMAX rollout was an absolute disaster. Many cities never got WiMAX and the cities that did manage to see it, speeds weren’t any better than Sprint’s 3G network, which here in Vegas has been nothing to write home about. I don’t know whether Apple knew that Sprint would eventually be sunsetting its “4G” project but they were smart to launch their phone on a network that had the most coverage.
The value of unlimited
We all love our smartphones and we love being able to use them the way we want. Over the past year and a half, a war has been waged on unlimited data and whether capped data plans would be a better way to go. Words like “throttle” and “caps” have been used to convey the displeasure people have had with their carrier’s loss of unlimited data. Sprint has been the one hold out in regards to doing away with unlimited data and this has been the sole focus of their advertising campaign since the EVO launched back in 2010. Sprint has done everything to protect its unlimited data plans like upping the ETF to a maximum of $350, raising the upgrade from $18 to $36 and getting rid of 1-year contract options. Sprint gained many subscribers when they got the iPhone and I’m sure that Sprint announcing that they would offer unlimited data for the iPhone on their network was also good news to possible subscribers. How has that been working out for Sprint thus far?
The iPhone 4S is a 3G phone but has the ability to take advantage of AT&T’s HSPA+ speeds, making it the fastest iPhone out there. The same phone on Verizon and Sprint can only run on each respective networks EVDO speeds. The problem with unlimited is that it’s only as good as the network it’s on. As of right now, Sprint’s nascent LTE network, only exists in a handful of markets. Sprint talked about starting to deploy their LTE network mid-year 2012, which they have done and will have an aggressive rollout in 2013. The issue is that I don’t think they are being aggressive enough. Not just in regards to their LTE rollout but also explaining why people should come to their network. They shout unlimited data and no throttling at the top of their lungs; they even make it the sole reason in their advertising as to why you should leave your current carrier. The one thing they never seem to exclaim is how fast their network is and that’s where is starts getting a little clearer.
I’m not the average phone user by any means. I use Facebook, Twitter, take and upload photos all the time and text like no one’s business. As a tech review, I get phones in to use all the time and they all come with unlimited data because it’s part of the review unit but I always go to see what my data usage was like just so I am aware. I rarely ever go over two GB’s of data. Granted I don’t stream movies over data so that would be the one exception but like I said I’m not the average consumer here. Now if I rarely ever go over two GB’s of data, except for people who stream Netflix to their phone, why would the average consumer *need* not *want*, but *need* unlimited data? Unlimited is nice in theory but is only as good as the network offering it. Sprint’s lack of hyping up how fast, quick, or speedy their network is in their advertisements should tell you all you need to know. Not to mention that Sprint’s WiMAX and 3G coverage hasn’t been the best and people often complain of how slow Sprint is. People are looking beyond the excitement of unlimited and starting to look at the network itself. Apparently unlimited isn’t enough on its own to entice people to come over. How else would you explain Sprint’s discounting the iPhone 4S or their promo where