Report: Sprint deploys network enhancements to aid iPhone customers

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) has spent the past several weeks deploying "network enhancements" intended to improve the data speeds and customer experience for some Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone customers who had complained about low data speeds, according to CNET.

The news comes after Sprint acknowledged earlier this month there was an issue for some iPhone customers, and that Sprint was investigating the matter. "Initial customer response to the improvements has been very positive," Fared Adib, vice president of product development for Sprint, said in a statement to CNET. "Sprint continues to monitor device and network performance to ensure that customers get the performance they expect from our products."

The iPhone will be crucial to Sprint's turnaround, particularly in attracting and maintaining postpaid customers. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has said the company expects to sell at least 1 million iPhones in the fourth quarter. The carrier has committed to paying Apple $15.5 billion over four years for the iPhone. 

Since Sprint started selling the iPhone Oct. 14, there have been a number of reports from Sprint customers that their iPhones were experiencing unusually slow data connections on Sprint's CDMA EV-DO data network. The problem continues to be a hot topic on Sprint's support message board, with more than 1,700 responses and 376,000 views. Earlier this month Adib told CNET that the complaints represent a single-digit percentage of the base of Sprint's iPhone 4S customers.

Metrico, the mobile performance and measurement company, found in a report released earlier this month that AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) version of the iPhone 4S delivered faster mobile data downlink and uplink speeds and faster Web browsing than the iPhone 4S from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint. The data speed results are not that surprising, since the iPhone 4S supports HSDPA speeds up to 14.4 Mbps on AT&T's network--faster than CDMA EV-DO data provided by Verizon and Sprint. According to Metrico, the average data download speed on an AT&T iPhone 4S was 3.2 Mbps, compared with around 1 Mbps for Verizon and 581 Kbps on Sprint.

Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter told FierceWireless that the company began enhancing its CDMA network in January, well before the iPhone launched, and has continued to improve it since then. She said Sprint has largely focused on adding voice and data carriers on a market-by-market basis. Tolaga Research analyst Phil Marshall noted that in addition to adding more carriers to its network Sprint has also likely focused on enhancing spectral efficiency.

"What tends to happen when you load these devices on your network is you get big spikes in capacity demand and you just don't have the channel elements in your network," Marshall told FierceWireless.

However, he also said that once additional carriers are added and there is more capacity in the network, that capacity needs to be managed efficiently and cell sites need to be coordinated so that they do not interfere with each other. Sprint said it used both feedback from customers and its own measurements to determine where the enhancements were needed, according to CNET.

Marshall noted that cell sites are constantly sending back reams of data about network performance to carriers. Sprint's day-to-day network operations are managed by Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) via a seven-year, $5 billion network outsourcing agreement that went into effect in 2009. An Ericsson spokesman did not immediately have a comment on the matter.

For more:
- see this CNET article

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