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4G/3G/WiFi

Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

11:45 AM -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) insists its multi-modal Network Vision is quite simple from a technical perspective, but it may prove less easy to explain to consumers looking to buy their next smartphones. (See Sprint Needs $3B to Fufill Its 'Network Vision'.)

Sprint, which was first with 4G with its WiMax network, is hoping it can capitalize on the growing consumer awareness of 4G (well, FauxG) and just refer to both its WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) phones as such.

But, even so, sales reps will still have to explain to consumers why they can only use certain flavors of 4G where they live. (See New Year, New 4G: At a Glance.)

I was struck by how complicated this could be after talking to Trevor Van Norman, Sprint's director of consumer product marketing, at CES, where Sprint introduced its first two LTE smartphones. (See Sprint Unveils First 3 LTE Devices and Sprint Strategizes on LTE.)





He said that consumers understand 4G and what it does, but not the differences between WiMax and LTE. Sprint sales reps will have to walk them through coverage maps -- determine where they use their phones the most, if they travel, and what their usage needs are -- to figure out if WiMax or LTE is best for them.

Of course, this year the answer will be WiMax in most cases. But Sprint will bow out of WiMax phones all together by the end of the year, if not sooner, and it's going to take a while to both build out its LTE network and create an attractive portfolio of LTE smartphones. (See Sprint to Launch LTE by Mid-2012.)

In the meantime, I think it'll be complicated for Sprint's employees to explain why you need to have 4G, but can't have that version of it.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

S4GRU 12/5/2012 | 5:45:24 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

About half the visitors to my sites get it.  But that leaves half that don't.


I think it breaks down that it seems that people who live in WiMax markets are the ones who understand it the least.  I often hear from them, "I thought I already have 4G.  Why would I want to upgrade to a different 4G?  I don't get it."


People who live in Non-WiMax areas and have WiMax phones that are never going to get coverage seem to understand that LTE is not going to help them at all.  Half of these folks are mad at Sprint and the other half just want to get a LTE device as soon as possible so they may some day have 4G coverage.


It will not be an easy sell.  However, unlimited makes a lot of confusing things more tolerable.  The number one thing I hear is that "Sprint better not get rid of unlimited, or I'm outta here."


I don't think its because most users want to be able to use tons of data.  I just think they like the concept of not having to monitor what they do and meter themselves.


Sprint better keep unlimited for LTE.  Otherwise, no ones going to want those nifty new LTE devices.  That is something consumers will understand.


Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
@Sprint4Grollout

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:45:24 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

I agree. If you're a tech-savvy consumer, you'll want an LTE phone, which doesn't make sense on Sprint. And, if you're not, it'll be real confusing why your "4G" phone doesn't work everywhere. And, being told your phone will only be 4G where you live isn't reassuring even if you're not a big traveler.


I have a feeling Sprint reps won't be talking up network attributes at all. They'll try to pitch the new phones on their features and hope consumers don't ask about the network. 

kaps 12/5/2012 | 5:45:24 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

Kudos to Sprint and Clearwire for being first out with 4G (they are still the 4G market leader, by several million phones over Verizon, at least through Q3 of last year) but it's going to be awfully tough to sell a Sprint LTE phone this summer unless they keep unlimited data plans for those phones. Which I don't think is going to happen.


Would you pay a premium for a phone that only works in a limited number of markets, or would you wait to see if there really is an LTE iPhone coming this year? Can't see any reason to upgrade to any of the LTE phones from Sprint or AT&T (and pay a premium) if you are going to be on 3G most of the time. Unless of course they offer some hardware innovation (slide out keyboard) that the iPhone doesn't have. But I don't think the initial phones for Sprint or AT&T have any such differentiators. So -- pricey LTE phone that only works in a few markets, or... iPhone?


The tri-network hotspot, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense -- takes the best of Sprint's existing 4G WiMAX network coverage with Clearwire, and adds in whatever spike they can build with LTE. But drat -- no unlimited data plan for the hotspot. Like Sarah said, lots of 'splainin to do. And not much that seems attractive.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 5:45:24 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

Kudos to Sprint and Clearwire for being first out with 4G (they are still the 4G market leader, by several million phones over Verizon, at least through Q3 of last year) but it's going to be awfully tough to sell a Sprint LTE phone this summer unless they keep unlimited data plans for those phones. Which I don't think is going to happen.


Would you pay a premium for a phone that only works in a limited number of markets, or would you wait to see if there really is an LTE iPhone coming this year? Can't see any reason to upgrade to any of the LTE phones from Sprint or AT&T (and pay a premium) if you are going to be on 3G most of the time. Unless of course they offer some hardware innovation (slide out keyboard) that the iPhone doesn't have. But I don't think the initial phones for Sprint or AT&T have any such differentiators. So -- pricey LTE phone that only works in a few markets, or... iPhone?


The tri-network hotspot, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense -- takes the best of Sprint's existing 4G WiMAX network coverage with Clearwire, and adds in whatever spike they can build with LTE. But drat -- no unlimited data plan for the hotspot. Like Sarah said, lots of 'splainin to do. And not much that seems attractive.

comtech3 12/5/2012 | 5:45:13 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

This is totally unrelated to the current topic being discussed here,but I had to throw this in.I just read a report that Symantec has confirmed that their servers were hacked into and source codes stolen.People who purchase their antivirus and pcanywhere should be worried.How could something like this happen to a software company whose product are made to protect the public?This is not the first antivirus company to have their own security compromised, as intruders have hacked into Kaspersky servers  three years ago.That is so embarrassing to say the lease.

sspray 12/5/2012 | 5:45:09 PM
re: Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

As a Sprint customer, it was tough to decide to stay with them when my contract came up recently. However, the unlimited is a big deal for me, and now that they have the iPhone, I made the decision to stay with them for now, especially since you can't even get a 4G iPhone yet anyway.


I also have to say, from a business standpoint, with all the work Sprint will need to do, hopefully my company will get a significant piece of that work!


 

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