Count it as another bad day for beleaguered Sprint. It’s beginning to look like all those doom and gloom predictions are finally getting close. The company filed information with the FCC showing that their LTE coverage is significantly worse than its three stronger competitors. It’s a little sad considering that they have been working on an LTE buildout for about five years.
Image courtesy of Forbes
Pictures don’t show everything but…
This chart shows Sprint’s LTE coverage in yellow overlaid over T-Mobile’s, AT&T’s, and Verizon (in pink, blue, and red respectively.) It’s not completely representative but it does paint a pretty clear picture.
Realistically all of the top three carriers have quote similar LTE coverage if you look at it by population. Verizon has obviously done some more work in less populated areas and they deserve to be commended there. However throughout most of the country you will get strong LTE service if you go with… well pretty much anyone but Sprint.
LTE isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.
I’m sure Sprint would like you to think that the most important thing is voice coverage. It isn’t. Voice coverage is important, but think about what you really do with your phone. You’ll very quickly realize that it’s data coverage that you need. In fact if you lost voice coverage completely you might not even notice it. With Wi-Fi calling and apps like Skype and WhatsApp you barely need voice service. And if you look at that map, you’ll realize that Sprint has really fallen behind in providing the kind of data coverage that we all want.
This map doesn’t show 3G or 4G coverage, which Sprint says it has in spades. I am sure they do but to be honest I need my cellular internet to be a little faster than that. I was super excited about 3G back in 2004 and I bet you were too. But then again things change.
Why is Sprint filing this information now?
As you probably know from my acid-tongued news coverage, Sprint wants to merge with T-Mobile. I’ve personally gone on record as saying that it’s a bad idea for T-Mobile, and honestly Sprint’s message to the FCC backs me up. They say that they’re burdened with so much debt that they can’t even afford to upgrade their network. I don’t doubt it. The legacy of two decades of bad decisions will do that to you.
Sprint wants to show the FCC that a merger of Sprint and T-Mobile wouldn’t create an uber-competitive mega-company. They’ve painted themselves as being fairly weak. They’re just weak enough that they aren’t sure how they could move forward without this merger, but the company stops short of reporting that they are close to bankruptcy. They’re probably not close to bankruptcy, and their parent company could easily cover their losses.
Here I actually agree with Sprint. It’s hard to see the path forward for them without this merger. The technology they do have is getting to be obsolete very quickly and without a bunch of cash they won’t have any ability to change that. I will say that Softbank, their overseas parent, could easily pump enough cash into Sprint to get them over the hump but they’re choosing not to do so. This probably has to do with their desire to unload Sprint onto T-Mobile. If they make the balance sheet worse, they’re unlikely to recoup anything from five years of pain and suffering. They’ve tried to make a go of it with Sprint, and they’ve clearly failed.
Will 5G make a difference?
I have to say I doubt it. Sprint says they’re really going to push hard into 5G and I believe them. They’re probably working with T-Mobile so the two companies have 5G equipment that’s at least compatible with each other. However, in order for 5G to move the needle for Sprint, they need early adopters. Otherwise it’s going to take 3-5 years for people to migrate over. They need those techies who really want a superphone. And honestly, it’s hard to believe Sprint has too many of those folks left when they don’t even do a good job serving them with LTE.
Back a winner
Sure, I’m entertained by Sprint. I sort of hate-watch them and have for several years. However, I don’t use their service. Full disclosure here — and it’s no surprise — this blog is owned by Signal Group LLC, an AT&T dealer. If you’re interested in getting good LTE service and working with a company that’s already starting to deliver 5G, get on the AT&T bandwagon. It starts with a call to 866.726.4182 where our experts can take care of you. We’re not going to treat you the same way those folks at the mall do. We’re just going to help you get the best cell service you can. And, spoiler alert, it’s not going to come from Sprint.