back to article Sprint boots 200 American patriots for using their phones

Shortly after they returned home from the war in Iraq, Sprint accused 200 American soldiers of excessive roaming and summarily canceled their wireless service. At least, that's the word from one of these embattled national heroes. According to our war veteran, who recently posted his story to the forum at SprintUsers.com, the …

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Roaming Trolls

As a Sprint customer that does a LOT of calling and data, I set my phones to NO ROAM. This prevents charges for roaming, but also results in some "dead" areas. That's my choice.

However, the military folks may be encountering another "interesting" issue, associated with ALL major cariers: there are "secondary carriers" - meaning small, one-horse operators - that, through politics, bidding for specific sites, etc., get the "rights" to put up a call tower in a specific location. These are usually next to areas like hospitals, military bases, beaches...you get the picture?

These "secondary" cariers then effectivly block signals from the primary carier with very strong signals, and "capture" any phone that is set to automatically roam. Once on their tower, they charge exorbitant rates - usually borne by the customer, but sometimes absorbed by the primary carrier through roaming agreements. Except that these "secondary" carriers don't have agreements with major carriers, except CASH ONLY.

There have been "scams" where a group of folks associated with the "secondary" carrier will subscribe to a major carrier, then roam for hours in the "secondary" cell, simply to drive roaming revenue to the tower owner. Think of this as the cell phone equivalent of a click bot that cranks revenue through a web site by hitting a pay-per-click site repeatedly.

So, although Sprint may be worng in hitting these Patriots, they DO have reason for doing it.

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Pattern?

Perhaps Sprint just has too many customers?

http://www.theregister.com/2007/07/11/sprint_boots_annoying_phone_customers/

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Anonymous Coward

Sprint is the worst mobile provider here in the southern US

Poor coverage, dropped calls, crappy customer service (obviously), and 2-3 generations behind on technology. Most large providers have some "efficiency expert" that looks for ways to validate their department's existence. This was probably just like the other story. They probably saved $50-100k with each of these batches of cancellations, but they have made El Reg headlines twice! Now that is efficiency in marketing!!!

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Broken business model!

Wouldn't it be easier to set the tariff such that sprint don't loose money from roaming? That would be far more sane.

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Anonymous Coward

Glad UK Is Not Like That...

It seems that how the US networks for mobiles are set up are backwards, Yes fair enough it is a lot bigger but in the UK most mobile providers give you 99.9% coverage as they all built strong networks (except TMob which always looses signal)

Why cant the US do the same, it cant be that difficult?

And would be an advantage if one carrier covered most states.

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Anonymous Coward

How many military customers do they have?

And how badly would it affect their business if every serviceman simultaneously left Sprint for other carriers? If it's one group of people who should be able to organise a co-ordinated move, it's these guys.

In fact, there could be a lot of money to be made for a company who decided to tailor a tariff specifically to those in the forces.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Glad UK Is Not Like That...

U.S. population density: 31/km²

UK population density: 243/km²

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Why the UK is not like that

Because the USA is massive, you pillock. Nobody can afford to blanket all of it in RF towers.

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Heros. Hmpfhs.

That these 'heroes without cellphones' energies are directed primarily to enforce Sprint's (and AT&T's, and Mobil's, and Microsoft's, and Halliburton's) executive disbursement of the federal deficit while generations of indentured American children suffer is why Sprint is so eager to reinstate their service.

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As a guy working for a telco

We need to do this here!

"I'm sorry sir, as you do no understand the term "Out of Range", your IQ is clearly lower than Flippers, We're terminating your lines. Here is your PAC code. Bye.

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Anonymous Coward

US v UK

You'll find that the 99% coverage figures for the UK are for 99% of the *population*, not 99% of the territory. The US is huge, with large areas which have tiny populations, and it will never be economical to cover those areas with more than one carrier (sometimes not even that).

That is where the 'free roaming' comes in, each carrier does a deal with the others to roam onto their network in a region where the user's usual carrier has no network. This saves all the carriers the expense of creating duplicate networks just to cover 3 guys and a ranchful of cows. Same thing happens in some remote areas of Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

My carrier would kiss my *** ,

... while picking my pocket at the same time, because we pay roaming through the nose around here. It is more expensive than... pretty much anything charged by the minute.

I mean, you almost see them salivating if someone says: "I'll be roaming a lot, is there a problem?". It is almost a license to print money.

My father needed lots of traveling in his last job, he paid some $500 per month because of roaming...

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US is big

"Why cant the US do the same, it cant be that difficult?"

I definitely don't want to defend Sprint, but the US is more than 14 times the size of the UK, so it really is difficult.

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coverage

"It can't be that difficult" states the previous poster....

According to my quick googling, the USA has approx 40x the land mass of the UK, yet a population of just 5x the UK.

So you've got huge amounts more space to cover, vast areas without power, and 1/8th the population density. And of course, 1/8th the population density means you have 1/8th the money to spend on average, and in the less populated and hard to reach areas, much less than that.

So less money, and far more space to cover without any supporting infrastructure in many areas. No, not difficult at all... o_0

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone got a spanner?

Loose money, loose signals - things seem to need tightening up!

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Anonymous Coward

Consolidation & Standardization

Before you comment on this, I already know that I am a "naive optimist".

The real answer to all tele-communication network issues is to prevent the "carrier" from owning the "networks", which I believe should be owned by the "public" with operations and maintenance contracted out to the private sector. Conceptually, "carriers" would lease the right to use the public network. Consumers would pay the Carrier based on their bandwidth usage.

This removes the conflicts of interest, will result in standardization of network protocols & hardware and free us ALL from roaming charges once and for all.

Not to mention the fact that REAL costs would go down due to standardized phones & telecomm equipment, better signal coverage, reduced political/zoning issues, a reduction in tower/antennae duplication; the list is endless.

Take the idea a step further and apply it to landline phone and internet communications and you get the picture.

Yes, I already know this will NEVER happen, but one CAN hope that reason and intelligence will eventually win out over "turf wars" and testosterone.

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But the UK is worse, in some ways

If you hit one of your provider's dead spots, you can't roam to another UK provider! Your phone might well show you the other networks, but they won't accept your connection...

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Sprint has gone too far

With the recent booting of over 1000 customers for thier "customer service calling too much, which I ranted about in the other comments area..." Sprint has taken a HUGE turn for the worse. I dont care what stick got stuck up their rear, but treating US soldiers this way is unacceptable. These soldiers dont choose to go to remote locations... And they even checked Sprints "coverage" area to make sure they could get a signal and according to Sprint, they shouldnt have had any problems. Yet, they didnt get any coverage. Sprint needs to see the light. If these soldiers werent fighting for the liberties of retards like Sprint, then the US wouldnt be a "free" country like it is today.

I dont think I'll continue with Sprint when my contract expires... This is the second time in less than a month that Sprint has decided, we're too good for the public... And the fact that they are now taking it out on US soldiers, thats too low.

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re:Glad UK Is Not Like That....

"It seems that how the US networks for mobiles are set up are backwards, Yes fair enough it is a lot bigger but in the UK ..."

40 times bigger (Well, 39.64x, but really). The difference isn't necessarily that the US has bad network design, or that the towers are too weak, but that any flaw in a system that large becomes significantly more pronounced.

Additionally, The UK has, I believe two or three Major carriers, mostly as off-shoots of the old land-line companies. In the US Mobile phones were a completely new form, and until recently were not associated w/ the land-line companies. So there were a tonne of small companies, that have only recently (past few years) started conglomerating.

So as to why the US can't do the same: Yes, it is that difficult.

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UK comparison?

We are backwards?

Never mind that the US Topography is so much different than the UK, and the size of the country is just a smidgen larger than the UK...

And of course, the number of carriers we have.....

Major influences on the build out of a a cellular carrier.

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Not suprised

Anybody who knows Sprint knows Sprint is, by miles, the worst carrier in the world. I have friends who had Nextel, another cell provider that pioneered two-way radio cell-phones that some businesses love. Like a rock around a neck, Sprint brought down Nextel. Today, I have a better chance of jumping to the moon than for my call to a Nextel phone to go through. Seriously. Everytime I call someone with an old Nextel phone, it always goes to voicemail.

These people should be happy. They have a real excuse to leave the worst carrier in the whole world.

Of course, such problems would probably not exist if the US used GSM only. It is funny, 5 years ago when I was in the UK and the Ukraine, my cell phone worked better there than here stateside today. And the Ukraine isn't exactly a prosperous Western nation, yet their cell phone are superior to the US. That is our curse for not being GSM only.

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Re: Sprint is the worst mobile provider here in the Southern US

WRONG! You exclude a lot of other areas. When I worked for Sprint Paranet (RIP), many of the consultants, as well as the management, carried phones from other carriers, mostly AT&T. We couldn't get Sprint coverage in our offices! Admittedly, this was in Austin, but I've heard the same complaint elsewhere.

If there are roaming trolls (not disputing it), then maybe it's time for a little regulation. A story like this should spark and outcry in Congress. Yeah, right.

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RE: Glad UK Is Not Like That...

Backwards indeed, last time I looked you have to pay to receive calls on your "home" network, just like we do when roaming abroad.

As for coverage, as you said, the place is just too damn big (why not given some land back to Mexico and Canadia?) with too many tin-pot providers offering half-arsed, often localised, coverage.

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Anonymous Coward

Canadia

I'm all in favor of giving back Texas, but the War of 1812 ended with a return to the status quo (a fact that Canucks and Brits seem to have a problem remembering), so there's nothing to give back up north. And with NAFTA for all I know the Canucks can navigate the Mississippi, and were there cod left to dry the New Englanders could dry them dry-shod in Newfoundland...

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re: Roaming Trolls

You're mischaracterizing the issue -- there are very few roaming trolls, mostly there are companies that provide service where otherwise there is none.

Alltel has the largest network in the country, perhaps 50% coverage, but it covers basically the southeast and the wstern desert -- they have consciously avoided the higher-population areas where bidding wars tended to break out. Verizon Wireless probably has the second biggest, but probably only covers like 30% by area at best. Cingular is probably 3rd. I would say Verizon & Alltel put together might have 60% coverage at best (there's a good amount of overlap in the midwest). Sprint, by area, might cover 10% by area, if that (but, over 90% of the population) -- they have licenses for every license area in the country, but have whisper-thin coverage along interstates, and in-city coverage. It's not trolling to provide coverage for the other 40% of the country that the big boys do not want to cover.

"However, the military folks may be encountering another "interesting" issue, associated with ALL major cariers: there are "secondary carriers" - meaning small, one-horse operators - that, through politics, bidding for specific sites, etc., get the "rights" to put up a call tower in a specific location. These are usually next to areas like hospitals, military bases, beaches...you get the picture?"

Both cellular and PCS companies did NOT bid for specific locations -- they bid by MTA or BTA, which are in general a good sized fraction of a state, but are at least a whole county in size. Sprint, in particular, has a license in every single block nationwide.. they just haven't built most of it out. But, Verizon Wireless, Cingular, etc., all also have tons of area they have the right to build out in, but just don't. So, OK, some mom & pop built there -- but otherwise, they'd have a phone that says "no coverage".

"These "secondary" cariers then effectivly block signals from the primary carier with very strong signals, and "capture" any phone that is set to automatically roam. Once on their tower, they charge exorbitant rates - usually borne by the customer, but sometimes absorbed by the primary carrier through roaming agreements. Except that these "secondary" carriers don't have agreements with major carriers, except CASH ONLY."

They don't block signals, period. That's illegal, and they'd be fined out of business by now if they were doing it. There's 2 cellular and 6 PCS bands; the small provider has a separate block from the "primary" carrier.. the small one can put out as much juice as they want and they are NOT going to "block" the primary's signal, they're on different bands.. And, most phones will hang on to the slightest, crappiest hint of signal from the primary provider before they roam (unless the user forces roaming), so simply having a stronger signal will not force roaming in any way. I can't argue with "cash only" roaming.. when I roam off US Cellular, it does take 2 months for it to show on my bill, so I'm sure Verizon is having to do things pretty manually, since other roaming I've done showed up within a day or two on my online bill.

"There have been "scams" where a group of folks associated with the "secondary" carrier will subscribe to a major carrier, then roam for hours in the "secondary" cell, simply to drive roaming revenue to the tower owner. Think of this as the cell phone equivalent of a click bot that cranks revenue through a web site by hitting a pay-per-click site repeatedly."

Maybe. Verizon Wireless does NOT have a 50% roaming rule, and I have heard of plenty of people that live in Alaska getting a phone down in the lower 48, getting the bill mailed down there somewhere, and moving back up to Alaska -- since Verizon Wireless' rates are like half of Alaska Digitel or ACS' rates, and they'll roam on them for free. That's not the phone company itself though.

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Anonymous Coward

re:Glad UK Is Not Like That....

re:Glad UK Is Not Like That....

"Additionally, The UK has, I believe two or three Major carriers, mostly as off-shoots of the old land-line companies. In the US Mobile phones were a completely new form, and until recently were not associated w/ the land-line companies."

In the UK there are 5 networks, and many more MVNO's, only 1 of them is an offshoot of a landline company...O2 (mostly because there is only 1 landline company). In the UK however the networks are obliged to cover something like 90% of the population to keep their license, which admitidly is easier in a small country with high population density. So we have 4 networks with pretty much complete coverage, and 1 with about 80% (Its new), but they can roam onto Orange......but not get cut off if they do it too much lol

"I'm all in favor of giving back Texas, but the War of 1812 ended with a return to the status quo (a fact that Canucks and Brits seem to have a problem remembering), so there's nothing to give back up north. And with NAFTA for all I know the Canucks can navigate the Mississippi, and were there cod left to dry the New Englanders could dry them dry-shod in Newfoundland..."

PS. its not that we have problems remembering, its that we dont care!

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re canadia

you can not give back Texas because you did not take Texas, Texas won its independence on its own, then joined the US 10 years later.

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