No More Unlimited Mobile Broadband.
This Review Is Dated. Please See The 2012 Sprint 4G Review.
While Sprint mobile broadband has the largest 3G network, they’ve unfortunately capped their unlimited mobile broadband plan at 5 GB. In addition to this, 3G speeds and customer service rank average (unless you’re in an EVDO Rev. A area).
Read on for the devil in the details.
Sprint 3G Plans
40 MB for $40. 5 GB for $60.
Back when Sprint Mobile Broadband was cool, they had two plans:
- 40 MB plan for $39.99
- Unlimited for $59.99
The 40 MB plan and unlimited plans are no longer available.
Much to the anger of many subscribers (including myself), Sprint capped their unlimited plan at 5 GB, effective, July 13, 2008 for existing customers. If you were lucky enough to get unlimited mobile broadband before this, your plan may be grandfathered in (i.e. you’ll get to keep it).
With the now 5 GB plan being the top tier option, it leads one to ask the question “How Much Is 5 GB & Is It Enough?”.
The Fine Print
My Sprint Mobile Broadband taxes have never exceeded $2. I love it. Great for keeping the cost down. If you take a look at my bill below, you’ll see how much is due on this bill and what I paid the month before.
*I’ve received several bills since this and they’ve always stayed below $62
Looking at the second page, you can see that I got charged 20 cents for a rogue text message. Since then, I got Sprint to remove it. That brings the difference in my monthly bills to 4 cents.
What’s more is that the taxes won’t cut into your child’s college fund. This kind of predictability is great, especially if you’re working on a budget.
The 5 GB Sprint Mobile Broadband plan can serve as your primary connection if you don’t do any heavy downloading.
Comcast’s broadband internet is $42.95 a month after the 3 to 6 month promos are over. Looking at that, mobile broadband for an extra $15-$20 doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.
If you want to still do your heavy downloading while having decent internet on the go, use this as your secondary connection. The speed will let you get your work done and a bit of recreation through music streaming and YouTube.
It’s not built for downloading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in HD. To find out more on why that is, read about Sprint’s mobile broadband speed.
Sprint 3G Speed
Similar to DSL?
Sprint mobile broadband average speeds are “600-1400 Kbps [downloading], peaking at 3.1 Mbps, and 350-500 Kbps average upload speeds, peaking at 1.8 Mbps.
Similar to DSL, and about ten times faster than using a dial-up modem”. Note that these speeds are available in Sprint EVDO Rev. A areas.
In EVDO Rev 0 areas “speeds are 400-700 Kbps with peak rates up to 2 Mbps, and at average upload speeds of 40-70 Kbps with peak rates up to 144 Kbps”.
For everywhere else think, dialup speeds.
This isn’t terrible considering two studies done reporting average US broadband being 1.9Mbps to 4.8Mbps in 2007. Just don’t compare it to Japan’s average of 61 Mbps and you’ll sleep soundly at night.
What does that mean for real world purposes?
The Fine Print
Don’t expect to play Halo online or download 300 in High Definition. You’ll be waiting for maybe 3 weeks to see it happen, or worse yet, have your Sprint mobile broadband speed limited for excessive use.
What’s excessive usage you ask?
All the fun stuff. Think using bittorrent or P2P clients, downloading movies and the like. The official word from Sprint’s contract is:
You can’t use our Data Services:
- (1) with server devices or host computer applications, or other systems that drive continuous heavy traffic or data sessions; and
- (2) as a substitute or backup for private lines or frame relay connections.
We reserve the right to limit, suspend or constrain any heavy, continuous data usage that adversely impacts our network performance or hinders access to our network.
While not as friendly as Mr. Rogers neighborhood, it’s a crying shame better than Verizon and AT&T who’ve kicked users off their network. On top of that, they had the pleasure of paying an early termination fee.
Sprint 3G Speed Test
If you’re in an urban area where you can get a surge of high speed such as I did in New Orleans, then you practically have a mobile cable connection.
However, if you’re getting your album or movie fix (legally of course), stick to your cable or DSL connection
at home for now to be careful about going over the 5 GB limit.
The speeds available can definitely do that especially if you’re using P2P software like bittorrent. Thankfully, Sprint has updated their tools online to allow you to check your usage.
I also tested to see what speeds would be like using uTorrent. Here’s what it’s looking like:
Definitely not shabby at all.
Whether or not you’ll get those kinds of speeds depends on whether you’re in an EVDO Rev. A coverage area.
Sprint 3G Coverage
The Largest Mobile Broadband Network
The Sprint coverage area for mobile broadband is the largest. With good signal on most interstates, it’s definitely a staple for road warriors.
It also works as a great alternative to satellite providers in rural areas especially in EVDO Rev. A (high speed) areas.
Personally, I tested it twice on the I-10, (from New Orleans to Jacksonville) without any noticeable drop in connectivity.
What’s especially handy if you’re on the road a lot (or even if you aren’t), is the built in GPS available for certain broadband cards. Tie it in with Google Earth and you don’t have to shell out extra cash each month for a GPS subscription.
If you’re prone to getting lost a lot or planning on a remote camping trip, then this probably wouldn’t be your best bet. I will say that it did help me find a Walmart when my tire exploded into shreds on the interstate.
I was able to map my location and find the nearest town for help. I got to the Tire and Lube section of a super Walmart 30 minutes before it closed. If I didn’t have the GPS, I’d have been up the creek.
How often do things like this happen? Not very, but if they do, there’s nothing like having the power to take control of the situation.
Generally, the Sprint coverage area for mobile broadband is better than the paired GPS. However, there is a premium GPS service that works indoors as well as out.
Why would go premium? Satellites find it tough locating you, when you’re hiding in a house for one. For an extra fee per month, magically they can.
Naturally, the Sprint coverage area doesn’t cover everywhere. If you’re curious as to how it is on routes you regularly travel or just by your house, Sprint has a coverage tool that I’ve found to be fairly accurate. Be sure to change the “coverage details” from “voice coverage” to “Data, Email and Multimedia” to see the mobile broadband coverage results.
Sprint Customer Service
Just hearing Sprint customer service can strike terror into the hearts of some. For others, it’s warm fuzzy feelings. What’s funny is that when companies named their departments ‘customer service’, they never said if it was good or bad.
Here we look at Sprint customer service in a number of categories:
- Average wait time
- Pleasantness of the representative
- Problem resolution
Most companies have some amount of wait time.
Calling them is not the sort of thing you want to do at a stoplight or before a board meeting. Sprint used to have seriously long wait times. A recent survey has shown they’ve made a turn around.
Unfortunately, there have been numerous accounts of rude customer service reps and contract extensions without customer consent.
Funny enough, they used to be the ‘go to company’. If it wasn’t always this bad, where did they go wrong?
Things went sour after the Sprint Nextel merger. Representatives were no longer rated on how many problems they resolved. Instead, they were rated on how short their calls were and number of contract extensions.
It’s no wonder that they have the lowest retention among the major providers. Thankfully, The future looks like it could be bright.
Dan Hesse, Sprint’s new CEO, says “We are shifting investment from customer acquisition to retention”.
According to Hesse “First call resolution and average speed of answer are measured. That’s improving right now”.
The Fine Print
I called Sprint’s customer service on two separate occasions because:
- My rebate was declined
- I had a $0.20 text message charge on my bill
When I first called Sprint with regards to my rebate, I got confused. The rep told me that I was denied because I needed to extend my contract. When I told him I’ve had it for one month, he checked and said “oh that’s right”. Magically, he said it should be processing.
Several days later, I got a letter from Sprint saying the rebate denied. Looking at the dates, it came after my conversation with the rep. A couple business days afterwards, I checked online and saw that it was being processed. Much to my delight, at the time of this writing it’s now approved:
It’s not a stimulus package but I’ll find something to do with it.
With just about 7-8 weeks, it’s better than the 10-12 weeks estimated. The experience wasn’t bad. It just makes me think about all the other people who aren’t watching the status of their rebates like a hawk.
As I mentioned in billing, I had a 20 cent charge for a text message that my broadband card can’t send. Can it receive them? Beats me. All I know is, with this kind of interface, who can tell?
All the same, I call Sprint. After my usual waiting time, I tell them my story. The rep promptly responds he can credit it back and block all future SMS text messages.
Wow! Thanks! It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. Then again, it was 20 cents and not $200. Word has it the average credit they give is $3 per call. Looks like I fell into the margin.
While my experience was a positive one (and continues to be), Sprint still has the lowest customer care rating (J.D. Power and Associates) below the industry average. For the full details, check out our carrier comparison for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Alltel.
Overall we give Sprint 4 out of 5 stars. Here’s the breakdown by category:
At just about $60 per month for their 5 GB plan, Sprint is pretty much on par with the rest of industry. It’s not terrible considering it’s just $15 more than a wired cable connection in your house.
The really low taxes (under $2) are excellent when compared to just about everything else.
For cost, Sprint is average with 3 out of 5 stars.
Sprint’s advertised speeds for EVDO Revision A were 600-1400/350-500 Kbps download/upload in EVDO Revision A areas. According to the Sprint coverage tool, I’m in an Rev. A area.
My speeds didn’t match up.
They were closer to EVDO Rev. 0 speeds of 400-700/144 Kbps downloading and uploading respectively. This might have been due to peak hour traffic and the accuracy of the coverage tool (i.e. I may really be in an EVDO Rev. 0 area).
While it’s not the advertised speed, it still works for me.
I can stream music and videos online, do research, and surf the web. It would be nice to have that advertised speed though. Then I could think about not just regular VoIP, but VoIP with Video.
For speed, Sprint is average with 3 out of 5 stars.
Sprint 3G coverage has served me well.
I’ve used it as a GPS navigator throughout Georgia and Florida on the I-75, I-10 and I-95. I’ve only had a few dropped signals which automatically reconnect themselves. Not exactly army grade GPS or anything but it’ll do.
Being able to work just about anywhere I can plug my laptop in (including my car) is a big plus for me. The whole point of mobile broadband is that kind of freedom anyway.
For coverage, Sprint is good with 4 out of 5 stars.
Reliability & Customer Service
Sprint’s reliability is good depending on what you’re doing. It’s good for non-intensive internet use. In other words, no downloading large files in one setting. You may have to restart if you experience a dropped signal.
The good thing here is that it probably wouldn’t happen unless you’re moving around. If in one spot, you should be fine. If you’re in a moving vehicle, you can still stream, download small files and browse online. No problems there.
For reliability, Sprint is good with 4 out of 5 stars. (It’s average if you are a power user).
Even though Sprint has been plagued by customer service issues in the past, it seems things could be getting better.
My personal experiences were positive but there are still many horror stories. Bottom-line, you can get your problems fixed but it may take some persistence every now and then.
Sprint customer service is average with 3 out of 5 stars.
Not Sure About Sprint?
Check out our Postpaid Mobile Broadband Comparison