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Sprint Allows LTE Service Over Mobile Virtual Network

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the inviting-competition dept.

Businesses 45

Hugh Pickens writes "In the past, carriers like Sprint have placed restrictions on their Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to prevent them from competing directly against the carriers. The MVNOs were forced to sell budget service and budget technology. But Businessweek reports that the Galaxy S III has began shipping to customers of MVNO Ting, officially making Ting the first carrier to offer an LTE service without owning an LTE network. 'All the market trends we're talking about today are allowing us to be competitive at the high end,' says Elliot Noss, CEO of Ting, adding that Sprint has stripped off the last remaining obstacles to MVNOs competing with it on equal terms. Virtual carriers are experimenting with new pricing models, such as Ting's metered voice and data plans, that run counter to the way big operators have always sold their services. So far, only a minority of customers finds these new types of models appealing, but it's a growing minority, says Noss. MVNOs all but died out in the last decade, victim to their own over-segmentation of the market and the only survivors were the ones who kept their focus on the budget prepaid segment like TracFone. But nine months ago, AT&T and T-Mobile started selling data and voice airtime by the bucket, which gives MVNOs much more flexibility in pricing. Even more significantly, carriers started working directly with MVNOs to craft unique plans in exchange for a percentage of the plans' revenues. In the meantime, prepaid operators such as Leap Wireless are already selling the iPhone, and it's only a matter of time before the economics are right for Sprint to lift its iPhone restriction as well. 'I'll put it this way: I would be disappointed if we didn't have the iPhone by next summer,' says Noss. 'That kind of holdback of iconic devices is beginning to make less and less [business] sense.'"

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The Muzzies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41232809)

The Muzzies are coming, The Muzzies are coming
Everyone keep calm
They're evil and they're violent
And they mean to do us harm

Meanwhile... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41232867)

Europe continues to laugh at the ridiculous, broken US cellphone market. Europe also continues to laugh at our broadband land-line market, our free and premium TV markets, and pretty much anything related to telecommunications.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233199)

Seriously. Its amazing how backwards we are, and how not many seem to care.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233763)

It's okay, we still have lots to laugh at the EU about...

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#41234995)

I agree that Europe has some things right (no "free " phones) but they fail completely when roaming with absurdly high charges when you travel across borders from one tiny county to another.

Re:Meanwhile... (2)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#41236669)

Really? The EU has legislated multiple rate reductions for roaming texting and calling rates [and I think also data, but they are at least working on data] over the last 5 years.

Meanwhile, in the US, it's free Enterprise all the way. The best you can do is:
a) pay extra every month to get slightly lower roaming rates
b) tell your provider to cut you off or at least text you when you hit a particular amount of roaming fee's

Actually, it's worse, because in the US, your phone is carrier-locked by default, so you have to buy another phone if you want to put in a local SIM and pay local rates, while in the EU, phones are normally unlocked.

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#41239331)

Yes, it is true that the roaming situation in Europe has gotten so bad that the EU has had to intervene. However, their "success" at lowering rates has only reduced roaming charges from "outrageous" to "atrocious".
Roaming rates in Europe are now 29 cents a minute for calls and 70 cents a megabyte for data. These are still absurdly high rates. In comparison, all (I haven't seen a plan charge for roaming for years) of the call and data plans in the US have free roaming across the entire country.
Just to give you an idea of the cost, I buy a "no contract" data plan (which allows roaming across the entire US) from ATT for $15/200MB (7.5 cents a MB or about 10% of the cost in Europe) or $25/1GB (2.5 cents a MB) and also buy phone calls to anywhere in the US (from anywhere in the US) for 10 cents a minute.
You don't have to buy a contract cell phone in the US. You can buy an unlocked phone and buy "pay as you go" service the same as Europe. Unfortunately, most people aren't smart enough to figure out that the "free" phone with a 2 year contract actually costs them more than $1000.

Re:Meanwhile... (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#41235127)

Really? The US has three LTE providers, how many does the UK have, how many does Germany have? Can you roam between them (especially on LTE) without being raped in the pocket book? My wife has nationwide coverage with 300 voice minutes, 2.5GB of 3G data, unlimited texts all for only $25/month. That's competitive with any offer available anywhere in the world and with a much larger coverage area.

Re:Meanwhile... (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#41235355)

by afidel (530433) Alter Relationship on Wednesday September 05, @08:21AM (#41235127)

Really? The US has three LTE providers, how many does the UK have, how many does Germany have? Can you roam between them (especially on LTE) without being raped in the pocket book? My wife has nationwide coverage with 300 voice minutes, 2.5GB of 3G data, unlimited texts all for only $25/month. That's competitive with any offer available anywhere in the world and with a much larger coverage area.

Actual network operators in Europe aren't much more than the US - it's just that there's enough regulations (evil! evil!) that ensure that you can have a pile of MVNOs providing competitive services.

That's basically what makes Europe different - the actual infrastructure providers are forced to share with competitors. And those competitors don't have to own any equipment (the "virtual" part of MVNO).

Of course, the US will work itself in a tizzy if any sort of law like that were to be introduced by either side.

Hell, when Canada introduced AWS band carriers (e.g., Wind, Mobilicity), the big carriers objected and threw up enormous roadblocks. You can expect even more lobbying should someone even make a peep about sharing infrastructure.

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#41236445)

Uh, there are at least a dozen MVNO's in the US, some of them are now owned by the big carriers as wholly owned subsidiaries but they exist and offer competitive packages (my wife's plan is through Virgin Mobile, an MVNO which Sprint bought a few years ago)

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#41237003)

I'm with Wind Mobile and I love it. $29 for unlimited local calling, txting, and data (5 GB before they throttle me). So what if I have to pay roaming what I'm outside the city. It's a small price to pay for getting exceptionally cheap service inside the city. For a similar package with any of the big cell phone carriers, I'd be paying at least double that.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41238161)

...My wife has nationwide coverage with 300 voice minutes, 2.5GB of 3G data, unlimited texts all for only $25/month. ....

Uh, care to share details? What phone? What carrier? General location?

In USA's Intermountain West region, there are huge tracts of land with no or little cell coverage, potentially extremely expensive if a given phone ends up roaming on the wrong network.

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#41239005)

Virgin Mobile (Sprint MVNO), they have tons of phones available including a number of fairly current Android sets and the iphone 4s, I'm in the greater Cleveland area. Virgin Mobile does not roam so if you don't have Sprint coverage it won't work for you. The intermountain west is kind of a no-mans land for any carrier, there simply isn't enough population density to justify installing towers and fiber backhauls. It's one of those places where 5W DAMPS was a useful technology =)

"I don't feel tardy." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41236165)

It's easy to have all the latest stuff when you're late to the party.

Staying Relevant (4, Insightful)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 2 years ago | (#41232973)

Unfortunately this isn't all that surprising. With the market failure of WiMAX in the US, Sprint has been put in a very bad position overall. At this point it's everything the company can do just to stay relevant, particularly when the big two (VZ and AT&T) are ahead of you in both coverage and LTE deployment and "little" T-Mobile has a lock on the cities by offering good prices combined with fast speeds (3G DC-HSPA+).

Meanwhile Sprint's network is still almost entirely composed of a last generation CDMA network, unless you're fortunate enough to be in Atlanta where their first LTE deployment is. Even then the performance sucks [anandtech.com] thanks to the fact that they are deploying their LTE network on such a high frequency.

Because of these reasons, expect to see Sprint do more "crazy" things like MVNO LTE. They're not going to win in a price war, a speed war, or a coverage war; they're going to have to keep throwing things at the wall until they find something that reverses their fortunes, if such a thing can be found in time.

Staying in line. (3, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 2 years ago | (#41232993)

Staying relevant isn't just a Sprint thing. It also applies to all the others with people fleeing contracts. The clue is in the article were the major names want a piece of the action. It's like the cable carriers giving Netflix and Hulu better terms if they get a cut.

Re:Staying Relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233237)

What they are doing is called being a "business". I used quotes since you are so fond of them.

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Re:Staying Relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233395)

High frequency has more bandwidth and poorer penetration. When covering small geographical areas or using many towers high frequency is actually preferable. Low frequency does however travel farther and penetrate buildings better despite having a lower peak bandwidth. It's a trade off.

Re:Staying Relevant (2)

wytcld (179112) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233533)

I've been a Ting customer since a month after they started. We have two smartphones, both with 3G, one with WiMAX. Here in northern New England 3G is all any carrier has. Sprint's network lags Verizon's slightly - and while Ting has free voice roaming there's no data roaming at all. But Sprint's 3G isn't overtaxed. Works well for us, especially with the free tethering for our laptops. If we want to stream huge media files we use our wired connection at home. Meanwhile our combined bill averages less than $30 a month. Of course, that's after paying for the phones outright. What would this cost us on Verizon ... or Sprint? (Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile is even present here.)

When we visit cities with WiMAX, that works decently too, a nice boost. If we want LTE later, we'll have to buy another phone. But we're saving enough on the monthly bill to easily afford one by then. The WiMAX arrangement with Sprint may even work out, in a way. They're keeping WiMAX lit for a least a few more years, and meanwhile the Clearwire spectrum that WiMAX is on - and far from saturating - is enabling Clearwire to do an LTE buildout that's on superior frequencies to what anybody else has for LTE, in terms of bandwidth density. Sprint, as majority owner of Clearwire, is first in line for that.

And Ting is so much a better deal for normal users than anything else, while still presumably giving Sprint a nice profit, that it should end up a very successful way to pull customers away from Verizon and AT&T - which by both polls and anecdotes, few people like. And Verizon in particular, as an enemy of net neutrality as well as a notorious union buster - why would anyone with a conscience buy from them?

Re:Staying Relevant (1)

dublin (31215) | more than 2 years ago | (#41268455)

I suspect Ting may not actually be the first to do this - MetroPCS has been advertising their new LTE offering for a couple of months now, and I know they are an MVNO on Sprint's network. I can't see anyone paying to run premature ads for that long.

(I'd be more familiar with this, but I'm only aware because of local DFW commercials on many of the Rangers ballgames broadcast here in Austin. Ron Washington has been pitching MetroPCS' LTE for a while now - I'm pretty sure since before the all-star break...)

Hurting for business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41234275)

Sprint is hurting for business so badly, they need to sell all the network access they can, to anybody that's willing to pay for it.

What they really need to do is offer a dirt cheap, unlimited everything, no-contract plan, even at little to no margin, just to get cashflow coming in again.

Sprint MVNO's already sell the iphone (2)

Kotoku (1531373) | more than 2 years ago | (#41232987)

I see it in stores all the time, Virgin Mobile (runs off the Sprint network) sells the iPhone currently, latest model as well.

http://www.virginmobileusa.com/iphone [virginmobileusa.com]

For taking the time to highlight one specific phone, seems funny to miss such a highly marketed appearance of the device.

Virgin Mobile is not an MVNO (2)

GoChickenFat (743372) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233255)

Virgin Mobile wholly owned by Sprint. Sprint completed purchase of VM over two years ago.

Re:Virgin Mobile is not an MVNO (1)

Kotoku (1531373) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233415)

Not really sure if that changes the definition of it being an MVNO, since it is run rather separately along with Boost and others by the Sprint Prepaid Group. Kind of like YUM foods operates a bunch of restaurant franchises, but they still have a great deal of independence. Sprint doesn't even have device interoperability between their primary service and Boost / VM, so having a Virgin Mobile variant of the CDMA phone at least requires different software and on a budget plan such as Virgin Mobile where you can go as low as $30 a month for unlimited text/data and 300 minutes, I think it warrants a mention.

Re:Sprint MVNO's already sell the iphone (1)

DCstewieG (824956) | more than 2 years ago | (#41234437)

Sprint owns Virgin Mobile (in the U.S. at least) so it's a special case.

Switched to Ting a while back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233055)

And it's great.

For my (minimal) voice/text/data usage, I'm billed $17.20 a month total.

WiMax device (Photon 4G) which is crazy fast when 4G is available, but it looks like I'll have to go to something LTE next time around. Hope they make it!

Re:Switched to Ting a while back (1)

Nocturnal Deviant (974688) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233121)

eh...they dont have an unlimited plan...ill stick with virgin mobile, i pay 20$ less a month for less than i get with VM, and i get wimax which quite frankly is faster than the average LTE speeds in atlanta.....

Re:Switched to Ting a while back (1)

whoop (194) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233229)

And Ting is great for those areas that aren't multi-million populations. I'm dropping from $150/month for two Sprint lines to about $20-50 depending on usage. My area, 100-150k, has WiMAX in two spots around sprint stores (1500 Mbps tops). Real useful, right?

When I called Sprint to cancel, they promised LTE will be everywhere, not just major cities. I'll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, I'll save a hundred a month.

It is definitely something to look into when you figure out how much you "need" mobile data. It is only a modest adjustment to download big things on home/work wifi (podcasts, custom ROMs, etc). Since I got a Nexus 7, I use my phone even less. So with Ting, I just turn tethering on this simple phone (LG Optimus Elite).

Awesome post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233063)

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Great now Sprint will suck even harder (-1, Troll)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233095)

Sprint's rollout of LTE is bullshit and now it will suck harder as bulk subscribers gobble up what tiny bandwidth Sprint has. Once again Sprint the Ponzi Scheme fucks us.

It's only a minority because of Sprint (4, Interesting)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233125)

So far, only a minority of customers finds these new types of models appealing, but it's a growing minority

As far as I know, Sprint is the only carrier that does this. If every carrier was forced to allow this type of competition, I'm sure it would become the majority.

I hate having to carry a contract with AT&T for two years. Phones are only discounted because you sign the contract. It would seem logical, then, that your monthly fee would decrease afterword but this is simply not the case.

Stop Feeding The Beast! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233153)

Stop feeding the beast. You accepting a 2 year contract is feeding the beast. Stop it.

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233197)

Tmo gives a discount (well now they advert it as low price, and payment plan on phone, but it works the same).

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233405)

duh, every carrier does have this

AT&T allows Straight Talk to lease their network. $45 a month unlimited everything.

verizon wireless has Leap which is mentioned in the article. they go under Cricket

its just that being on a 4 line family account on AT&T its the same price for me as going pre-paid once you figure the cost of a nice phone so there is no reason to switch. if i was single, it might be different

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233505)

StraightTalk has LTE? Because that's news to most people.

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

bratloaf (1287954) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233579)

This... for me anyway. 5 lines on VZ is actually less than prepay. BUT we dont have data. So, when contract is up in December we will definitely look at straight talk or another MVNO. Our son already bought himself a used iPhone and switched to straight talk. He loves it.

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#41233611)

straight talk's unlimited data is not unlimited. they said they have a 2.5GB fair use policy. sometimes they close your account right away. sometimes they throttle you. sometimes a warning first.

this is why i don't see much value in it. but then i'm on wifi almost everywhere

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41233701)

1 week in on Straight Talk and I've only used 100MB. I'm on wifi almost all the time.

Also, if you just remove their proxy in your APN settings they can't throttle you and supposedly don't notice when you go over 2.5GB. I had to remove the proxy to do my Speedtest.net runs. All data worked otherwise -- they just didn't want people running speed tests?

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#41235251)

Not sure about Straight Talk (they seem to have terrible customer service from what I read online), but Virgin Mobile says up front that you get 2.5GB of EVDO speed and then are throttled to 1xRTT speed. This is vastly preferred by most MVNO customers to being raped for overages.

Re:It's only a minority because of Sprint (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 2 years ago | (#41243703)

As far as I know, Sprint is the only carrier that does this. If every carrier was forced to allow this type of competition, I'm sure it would become the majority.

The other carriers do this, Sprint is just the one with the most MNVOs. Not sure about Verizon, but at least AT&T and T-Mobile also carry MNVOs with unlimited plans (text, talk, and data) for $40-$45. Straight Talk even lets you buy a SIM card for any T-Mobile or AT&T phone for $45/month unlimited everything. (But their customer service is reportedly the worst in the world.)

The reason that these aren't the majority is because the big four excel at marketing. They try to position themselves as the "premium" mobile providers with fancy phones and big expensive plans, and spin the MVNOs (and some of their own plans) as "budget" services for low-income consumers. If Apple products, cable TV, and SUVs have taught us anything, it's to never underestimate the profit potential of status symbols. To a majority of the populace, a cell phone is much more a status symbol than a necessity.

I did the research about a month ago. Since I don't use the carrier's services all that much (I don't make many phone calls, I use Google Voice for text messages, and turn off 3G data most of the time), I decided to go with Ting, the MVNO in TFA. I had to pay an outrageous amount for the phone (their low-end Android phones were too crappy to consider and there were no mid-level Android phones), but on the bright side, I'm looking at paying between $11 and $15 per month if I keep my usage low enough.

I don't think Ting is the first (1)

Isara (869637) | more than 2 years ago | (#41239767)

I (as of 30 minutes ago) ordered a Samsung SIII from CREDO, after eyeballing it on their site for a while. And for my unlimited 4G LTE service, I'll be paying $30/month less than AT&T

Re:I don't think Ting is the first (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#41242161)

It does seem pretty expensive though? Basic voice plan is $40, and unlimited 4G LTE data is $30. Did you consider a prepaid service like Ting?
 
And to answer your comment, Sprint simultaneously allowed all of it's MVNOs to use LTE phones. Ting unlike CREDO, allowed customers to preorder the phones, and is technically gets to call itself the first to offer LTE phones (and service).

Re:I don't think Ting is the first (1)

Isara (869637) | more than 2 years ago | (#41242531)

ah, thanks for the clarification! I was confused. CREDO is coming out to $57/month, with unlimited 4G LTE data plan, and minimal minutes (400 minutes - not on the website) and text messages (300). Plus, I like that they're a progressive company, so aligns with my values.

Re:I don't think Ting is the first (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#41243411)

I chose Ting for the same reason too actually (I did monitor my data usage though, before I switched (I switched from an unlimited one)). They officially allow BYOD (you can bring any sprint device). They also used to host a hacker forum to help people swap ESN, before BYOD was not allowed. Their customer service is like Amazon's, they bend backwards to help you, and they are really knowledgeable.

Ting rocks (1)

aap (108982) | more than 2 years ago | (#41252579)

Ting rocks. If they were on T-Mobile instead of Sprint I probably would have switched by now. Pay for what you use, no extra charge for tethering, shared data and minutes without the ridiculous costs that the big boy charge for sharedness.

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