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Sprint’s network has been so bad that even fixing it made things worse

Published Aug 6th, 2015 8:10AM EDT
Why Is Sprint's LTE Network So Slow

Former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse didn’t exactly turn Sprint into a dynamo under his watch, but you can’t really blame him for that. After all, his tenure as CEO was hindered from the very start by the poor choices that Sprint had made prior to his arrival, most notably the decision to acquire Nextel and the decision to go with WiMAX over LTE as the carrier’s 4G technology. In an interview with Fierce Wireless, Hesse explains how fixing these costly mistakes actually made things worse in the short term in ways that he hadn’t imagined.

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“We knew it would be difficult, but it was even more difficult than any of us had anticipated,” Hesse said. “Unfortunately, there was no playbook. No wireless company in the world had done something so radical and so aggressive in order to build a great network at the end.”

Basically, fixing Sprint entailed shutting down not just one but two wireless networks: The iDEN legacy network it had acquired as part of the Nextel deal and the WiMAX network it had built in an ill-fated gambit to get to 4G before other carriers launched LTE. Both of these moves were very disruptive and cost Sprint even more customers, despite the fact that over the long haul they were the right decisions to make.

“Ripping out of the network degraded the customer experience more than we, or our vendors, suppliers, consultants, anyone envisioned,” Hesse elaborated.

What’s really depressing here is that despite all this, Sprint’s LTE network still lags behind all other carriers’ as tests have consistently shown that its average download speeds are slower than on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks.

It’s true that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs but in Sprint’s case it seems to have dumped the egg shells into the mix and fried them up along with the yolk.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.