Sprint subscribers have complained of slow data speeds since the iPhone 4S launch, revealing the carrier may need to rethink its network strategy.
Several reviewers found Sprint’s data speeds to be down 300-500-kilobytes per second on both the iPhone 4S and Android models. The iPhone 4S has been breaking sales records, selling more than 4 million units since last Friday’s launch and adding thousands of data-hungry phones to Sprint’s subscriber network.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier is the only one to offer unlimited data plans for the iPhone and other devices. Its plans start at $70 a month for unlimited data, so the carrier’s customers are likely tempted to pick up their smartphones more often, potentially bogging down the network.
Besides Sprint, every carrier offering the new iPhone has touted its unique advantages in an effort to attract customers and gain over competitors. Verizon showcased its high network quality and low number of dropped calls, while AT&T said Apple’s smartphone would reach faster HSPA speeds on its network.
Sprint has chosen to heavily promote the fact that subscribers can use their iPhones on its network without worrying about expensive data overages, a strategy the company may need to rethink if reports of slow data speeds continue.
Sprint’s 3G network is already slower than competitors’, with an average national download speed around 480-kilobytes per second, compared to Verizon’s 700-kilobytes per second and AT&T’s 2.4-megabytes per second. Sprint’s average iPhone data speed is about half of what’s available from competitors, according to tests performed by Gizmodo.
Sprint is working on its network in an effort to remain a competitor in terms of data speed. The carrier plans to launch its 4G LTE network next year, although its network-sharing deal with LightSquared is pending federal regulators’ approval, which may delay the rollout of a faster network.
Concerning this week’s slow data speeds, Sprint says it is “carefully monitoring the performance of the 3G network” and “looking into a small number of reports of slow data speeds when using the iPhone 4S.”
Sprint continues to monitor network slowdowns but does not have an immediate fix for them, so the carrier’s customers may have to be satisfied for now with enjoying unlimited data usage on their iPhones, albeit at a slower speed.