Sprint Pulls Down their Network Upgrade Maps

A loss of open and transparent network information

Most coverage maps are a creative lie. They're purposly crafted to make availability of data look like a binary state, and the details are often exagerated beyond recognition.

Sprint and T-Mobile are, historically, some of the most open and transparent networks about the quality and availability of their coverage. To be clear -- their coverage maps are deceptive in large amounts. However, their maps tend to be less deceptive than other providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and MetroPCS.

Sprint, in a innovative and refreshing move, went one step further. Rather than just make their maps more honest (the way T-Mobile has), they actually fake their coverage map (similar to AT&T, Verizon) for typical customers, and then opened up their network information to the public for technical customers. Granted, these maps were of sanitized data devoid of proper labels. But to an astute observer who was willing to read between the lines, there was a lot of technical information given.

the old Sprint network map showing planned upgrades (click to expand)

The Sprint network map had three categories broken out (voice air nodes, data air nodes, and data backhaul). It also showed how much Sprint thought they had upgraded a given tower, and how much more they thought it needed.

This is important because, historically, what Sprint claims are "upgrades" typically do very little to improve their service. For example, Sprint may claim they have completed "1 data speed upgrade". However, what this often *actually* means, is that they added a single T1 line of backhaul (1.5mb) to the tower. This "upgrade" means that the tower can now support exactly one extra 3G device. (A single 3G CDMA device, when in use doing something like watching a Netflix video, can saturate an entire T1 line on its own.)

This information is the only useful information to most people. Sprint's network is notorious for being poorly deployed, and poorly managed. Most people just want to know when their devices will start to work. If you ask Sprint this information, they'll hand-wave the question away with something like, "Sprint continously improves our nationwide network" which is both true (they technically are touching things) and observably untrue (it's been years since Sprint data devices have met Sprint's own average 3G speed in Grand Rapids).

Now however, this information is gone. Sprint removed the old map, and replaced it with a new one, that has stripped all future upgrade information. This new map (pictured below), is significantly less useful. The previous map would allow customers to at least know whether Sprint was planning on fixing service in their area. The new map effectively communicates that Sprint has no plans at all to repair / restore service.

the new, current Sprint map hids future upgrades (click to expand)

Sprint was once widely considered to be the most open, transparent, honest provider in regards to the state of their network. Unfortunatly, with their recent behaviour, this reputation has been lost, and their image tarnished. I would emplore Sprint to return the network map, with current and valid data, or risk communicating to their remaining customers that they have no intention of repairing or restoring service to their customers.