My regular readers know that I am a little bit of a wireless junkie. Also, since my work requires me to travel extensively (both overseas and across America) on a weekly basis and because I have had, at different times, all the Tier 1 carriers in the United States – I wanted to provide an update to the number of posts I have written on this forum on the QoS of different wireless carriers (or atleast the ones I have used).
I have had Sprint for 10 years now. I went through the gigantic screw-up of the Sprint Nextel merger, through the Clearwire phase (when Wimax was touted as an actual usable service) and through now (when Sprint’s service is wildly fluctuating due to all the changes due to Network Vision.)
So what do I think of Sprint’s service. Let’s talk about domestic service first. Frankly, it fluctuates. I live in the northeast and regularly take the Acela Express up and down the coast to different places (to where my clients are) – and I have had no major issues in taking conference calls and such while on the train. There are a few “call drop zones”, but they aren’t far and many. I will say Verizon’s “call drop zones” are fewer (e.g. in the tunnels of the Baltimore Harbor – Sprint drops its calls but Verizon doesn’t). However, call quality is much higher with Sprint – much less background / white noise etc. Also. Sprint’s plans allow for unlimited roaming – so in the event your train is stuck in the middle of a tunnel leading to the Baltimore train station – you can happily roam on Verizon while waiting for your train to start moving. (Note: For data, while roaming, I have found that my Sprint is on the slower 1xRTT network – and not on EVDO – while roaming on Sprint).
I also have a 4G MIFI on Verizon – which I primarily use to get online for my iPad / laptop – when traveling. I will say – notwithstanding claims from Verizon (or any other carrier) – 4G itself is fairly sketchy. (e.g. I don’t get 4G on my Verizon Mifi at Washington DC Union Train Station. Forget about Sprint Wimax / LTE). So practically, what is really going to matter to you is the robustness of the 3G network of any carrier you choose. And I will say – Verizon’s network is again more widespread. And again, it depends where you physically are most times. For e.g. at home in NJ, Sprint gives me far more faster service than Verizon does – however, while I am traveling – Verizon seems to have more consistent service. (I cant opine on AT&T – I used to have an AT&T iPhone – but ditched it during their times of infamously bad network service – i hear less complaints online now – but nothing I can verify personally).
So, as far as domestic coverage is concerned – here’s the lowdown in summary – Sprint is pretty robust. They don’t always have the fastest data service ( I fully expect this to be remedied as Network Vision is rolled out over the next 12-18 months). However, their plans are simpler – Unlimited, no metering – plus I really like Any Mobile Anywhere – the ability to call any mobile phone on any carrier – without counting against your minutes. Verizon is much more robust – but then you pay for what you get – and I am not a great fan of tiered pricing for data – statistics show that while we pay for overages – we dont reimbursed for lower usage – and the latter scenario is much more common,
Now let’s talk International – I spent the last 6 months all over the globe (primarily in South America and Asia) – so I have a little insight into this. If you are a corporate customer, Sprint and AT&T offer an unlimited international data plan for around 70 dollars / month. This is hugely useful if you travel as extensively as I do. I am not sure if Verizon and T-Mobile also offer these plans – but I am sure they would. As far as voice rates are concerned, it is a wash. All carriers charge exorbitantly. (Note: For Sprint and Verizon, you would need a dual mode phone – CDMA / GSM – for it to work abroad). But typically, I would say – local partner carriers have blanket coverage in all urban areas – arguably much more than the United States – so as long as you have a dual mode phone, you’ll be fine. Just remember – those unlimited data plans are not available to individual customers just yet. If you are an individual subscriber, you still pay a blatantly exorbitant amount per KB – which I personally think is criminal.
So, in conclusion – what do I think. Like I said, I have had Sprint for 10 years and have no reasons to switch – I love the predictable bills, the unlimited data plans and lately, the fantastic customer service that Sprint offers. Will it work for you? Check your area’s coverage. However, Sprint’s coverage (both 3G and LTE) will get a lot better as it rolls out Network Vision. Amongst competitors, I would say Verizon is a great alternative – assuming you don’t want to pay significantly higher prices.
Personally for me, Sprint offers me the best of all worlds – value as well as great customer service.