Monday, September 17, 2007

Sprint Releases AIRAVE to Enhance In-Home Coverage

Sprint announced today that it is releasing AIRAVE to select customers in the Denver and Indianapolis markets.  The device is intended to replace a customer's landline by offering unlimited incoming, outgoing, and long distance calls with enhanced coverage inside the home.  Sprint customers can use the same CDMA phone that they currently use on the Sprint network.  The AIRAVE is a femtocell that utilizes customers' broadband service to communicate with the Sprint network. 

image The Samsung manufactured device covers approximately 5,000 square feet overlaying coverage of the CDMA network.  Up to three Sprint subscribers can use the AIRAVE simultaneously as long as they are registered with the device.  If users are within the reach of the device, calls are initiated and received through it without utilizing any of the subscriber's plan minutes.  A subscriber can initiate a call on the femtocell then continue it outside its range on the Sprint network.  They will be charged for the time on the Sprint Nationwide network.  If they originate the call outside the femtocell, then come within range, they will have to re-establish the call to stop being charged for it. 

The AIRAVE is available in Sprint stores today (my local store had 8 of them) for $49.99.  A single line costs $15 per month for unlimited calling, and $30 per month for a family plan.  AIRAVE does not work with the iDEN system or EV-DO as far as I can tell.  AIRAVE is only available in Denver and Indianapolis for the moment with Nashville later this year.  Nationwide rollout is planned for 2008.

AIRAVE is Sprint's answer to T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home without requiring a new phone.  T-Mobile utilizes Wi-Fi for its in home wireless coverage while Sprint relies on the CDMA standard which is superior because customers can keep their same devices.  Both systems require a broadband connection.

Every six months Sprint adjusts my local cell site to move a minor null away from U.S. 36 west of my house.  Sprint ends up moving the null to our development preventing adequate coverage in my neighborhood (outside buildings).  They do not really have a choice since the antennas are fixed to a building.  The phone registers with the HLR, but calls go to voicemail.  I open trouble tickets and eventually service is restored.  Sprint's coverage maps show great coverage in my neighborhood if you think that receiving voicemail notifications qualifies as great coverage. 

AIRAVE would be an answer to my voice service problems if only Sprint would waive the charges for the device and service.  So far they refuse to do anything about it.  I hoped that they would at least offer to split the bill with me.  What I really want is a repeater to boost voice and data signals.  Too bad I cannot find anyone in Sprint that knows that they offer one for such situations.  My next step is to call customer retention to see if they can help live up to their advertising that they have coverage in my neighborhood.  I am going to call customer retention tomorrow to see if they will offer an AIRAVE to augment their poor coverage in my neighborhood.

Time will tell if AIRAVE will actually accelerate the replacement of the landline.  At $30 per month, it is a cost-effective replacement to a landline with unlimited long distance.  The femtocell will certainly boost the performance and use of cell phones in home and probably reduce calls to customer service complaining about coverage.  Hopefully a future version will support EV-DO.  This service may actually reduce churn from the Sprint network.


Additional articles:  Engadget, Phone Scoop, Washington Post

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