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Sprint completes network enhancements

Improvements in network coverage and customer service put Sprint back in the game. In the past six months, Sprint completed a number of network enhancements, including the complete realignment of all Idaho towers to an improved switching router in Utah, extending the EVDO/3G technology along I-84, and deploying a 4G network in Boise’s downtown corridor.

Additionally, Sprint recently launched a multi-year initiative to provide an enhanced network experience by improving voice quality and providing faster data speeds, while creating network flexibility, reducing operating costs, and improving environmental sustainability.

Sprint has selected Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung to provide network hardware, software and services enabling the aggregation of multiple spectrum bands on a single, multi-mode base station. The project, dubbed Network Vision, includes a $4 billion investment over five years in new technologies that will provide better coverage, optimize the number of cell sites needed and reduce operating costs.

The project also intends to reduce Sprint’s carbon footprint through a reduction in equipment and power needs.

“We closely monitor data traffic to drive our planning and network decisions. We’re also fortunate to have a CDMA network, which allows us to ‘grow’ easier and adapt to expanding data demands,” said Bob Azzi, senior vice president-Network. “Our network infrastructure, supported by Network Vision, allows us to transition easier and more economically than our competitors.”

It wasn’t so long ago that people traveling the stretch of I-84 from Boise to Twin Falls experienced dropped calls and weak signals. Idaho-based customer complaints were mounting from frustrated business customers as well as individuals.

A number of factors contributed to the issue, not the least of which is the rise in smartphones coming onto the network. Today’s smartphones and broadband connections are essential for businesses and individuals to meet the growing demands of real-time customer engagement. As these technologies advance, so do the requirements of capability of the networks.

Sprint expects smartphone and laptop data use to double each year, and handsets and tablets to soon replace computers as the main source for Web browsing. About180 million smartphones were sold in 2009, and Pyramid Research projects 3G and 4G smartphone sales increased 46 percent in 2010. Pyramid Research also projects that 3G and 4G devices will account for 53 percent of all mobile handset sales worldwide by 2015. According to The New York Times, average monthly data use increased 230 percent from early 2009 to early 2010.

In light of the exponential growth of data usage, technology designed to deliver dependable voice calling for a large part of Idaho – what we call 1X CDMA – was struggling to support the advanced technology of phones requiring EVDO capability.

“We’ve seen daily voice minutes of use remain fairly flat over the last two years while EVDO data volume and EVDO connection attempts have increased year over year,” said Monica Rozier, Sprint district manager for the region. “That’s a direct result of the number of smartphones coming into the market.”

“We have resolved the issues that were troubling our business customers most and we’re seeing very few reports of blocked and dropped calls from individuals now,” said Rozier.

As respected Industry Analyst Berge Ayvazian noted, “Enterprise customers will be the first to experience the benefits of Sprint’s Network Vision, with enhanced coverage for 2G voice, 3G voice and data services, expanded 4G technology options as well as a retooling of the industry’s leading push-to-talk services to ensure low latency and group calling features on an expanded range of devices.”

Customer service also continues to gain ground. Sprint made impressive gains in customer satisfaction in 2010. Sprint made impressive gains in customer satisfaction in 2010, overtaking Verizon as the industry leader in call satisfaction, according to a study on phone-based customer service quality conducted between October 2009 and December 2010 by Vocal Laboratories Inc. (Vocalabs).

In telephone interviews conducted immediately following a customer service call, 71 percent of Sprint customers interviewed in the fourth quarter said they were “very satisfied” with the call, up 11 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2009. AT&T and T-Mobile tied for second place in top-box call satisfaction in the fourth quarter of 2010, while Verizon dropped to fourth place.

In addition to highest overall satisfaction and with phone-based customer service, the survey found Sprint customers led the industry in “likelihood to repurchase,” with 70 percent saying they would purchase again from Sprint; and in “willingness to recommend,” with 76 percent saying they would “recommend Sprint to family or friends.”

Sprint’s improvements are being noticed. In a Feb. 16 report, Forbes updated its price estimate for Sprint stock (NYSE:S) and noted: “This result is due to improvement in both network and customer service, and we anticipate that Sprint will continue to build on this trend. The company plans to beef up its capital spending and expects cost savings and customer experience improvement to follow.”

This column was written by Jennifer Sniderman, manager of corporate communications at Sprint. She can be reached at jennifer.sniderman@sprint.com, www.twitter/JSniderman, or at (913) 315-1237. For more information, visit www.sprint.com.

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