Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bye, Bye Sprint Airave

A month ago, I was excited to install Sprint's Airave to boost my signal strength in and around my house.  I was excited about its potential to further eat into traditional POTS sales.  This type of service is ideal for T-Mobile and Sprint to increase ARPU since their companies do not own any wireline networks in North America.

After a little over a month of using the Airave, I had to take it back.  Once the unit was activated, it worked well except for the occasional dropped call.  Airave technical support in Fort Worth, Orlando, and Overland Park diligently worked to determine why the unit kept dropping calls.  They determined that the IPSec tunnel was restarting every several minutes which caused the unit to restart.  This was the source of my problems.  I was delighted that Sprint was actually securing my connection, but why was my VPN tunnel dropping?  The technician confirmed with Samsung that my Netgear WGT-624v2 router was not handling the computation/translation of the IKE key correctly with NAT.

During the course of troubleshooting, I could no longer receive any incoming any calls or text messages.  I could still make outgoing calls though.  Sprint could not explained what changed to make my unit worthless.  My solution was to buy a new router or take the Airave back.  I am perfectly happy with my router and do not plan on replacing it for another couple of years.  I suppose that I could put a Ethernet switch on my cable modem as long as I could get another IP address from Comcast, but I really do not want to keep troubleshooting the problem.

In the mean time, I received my second bill since activating the Airave.  The charges were almost incomprehensible.  I was charged a $26 activation fee that was supposed to be waved plus double charged for a month of service.  I took back the unit last weekend and tried to have the retail store give me credit.  They pushed me off to Customer Service.  My first call to customer service was a failure and the second was not much better.  I still have not been completely credited for my one month plus experiment with Airave.  It is not hard to see why 337,000 customers fled Sprint last quarter.

Sprint's Airave initiative is a bold move to capitalize on the trend for younger people to exclusively use their cell phones whether at home or on the go.  At the moment it is superior to T-Mobile's service because users do not need a new cell phone.  Once again their execution of the service is lacking and customer service makes the experience a nightmare.  I know that the purpose of the limited introduction is to work out the kinks.  I just hope that they can work out all of them before the mass market launch.

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