As a former Sprint customer for more than a decade I though this was interesting news.
My last post about Sprint was appropriately titled "Can Sprint do anything else to drive me away as a customer". I left Sprint less because I did not like them/service/etc and really more because I wanted to use the HP Pre 3 which was GSM, which meant AT&T (technically could of used T-Mobile but the Pre 3 didn't support all of T-mobile's 3G frequencies which meant degraded service coverage). So I was leaving Sprint regardless but they certainly didn't say or do anything that made me want to second guess that decision.
Anyway, today Sprint announces a big new fancy family plan that is better than the competition.
Except there is one glaring problem with this plan
[..]you’ll have to sign-up between Aug. 22 and Sept. 30, and current subscribers cannot apply.
Yeah, Sprint loves their customers.
On that note I thought this comment was quite interesting on El Reg:
[..]They combine Verizon-level arrogance with truly breath-taking incompetence into one slimy package. Their network stinks, it's the slowest of the Big Four (and not by a small margin, either), their customer service makes Comcast look good[..]
I write this in the off chance it shows up in one of those Google alert searches that someone over at Sprint may be reading.
I'll keep it pretty short.
I've been a customer of Sprint for 12 years now, for the most part I had been a happy customer. The only problems I had with Sprint was when I had to deal with customer service, the last time I had a customer service issue was in 2005.
I dropped Sprint last year for AT&T in order to use the GSM HP Pre 3 which I ordered at high cost from Europe. My Sprint Pre basically died early last year and I sat with a feature phone to fill the gap. Sprint charged me something like $100 or so to change to AT&T even though I was no longer in contract(paid full price for that feature phone). I think that was wrong but whatever I didn't care.
Fast forward to late last year/early this year - I'm still a Sprint customer - not a phone customer but a Mifi 3G/4G customer. I bought the Mifi almost two years ago primarily for on call type stuff. I hardly ever use it. I'd be surprised if I did 15GB of data transfer over the past 2 years.
Sprint sent me my usual bill, and it had some note about e-billing in it. Whatever, I paid my bill and didn't think about it. I don't like e-billing, I don't want e-billing.
Given I don't use the Mifi much it was about a month later that I tried to use it to find my service disconnected. Whatever, it wasn't that important at the time.
Later I got some letter saying Hey pay your bill to reconnect your service! I still didn't care since I wasn't using it anyways.
Later I got some collection notices from some collection agency (first time I've ever gotten one of those). So I figured I should pay. So I called Sprint - paid the bill and the first rep I talked to swore I was on paper bills and it must be a problem with the post office. I could see perhaps the post office missing one bill (I don't recall them ever missing any in the past 15 years), but not more than one. She swore it was set right on their side. So I hung up, not really knowing what to do next.
I logged onto their site and it clearly said I was signed up for e-billing. So without changing it back to paper I called back and got another rep. This rep said I was signed up for e-billing. I asked her why - she said it only would of happened if I had requested it. I told her I did not and she looked at the call logs going back SEVEN YEARS and confirmed I never requested it. I asked did Sprint do some kind of bulk change to e-billing she said no. I asked how it got set she didn't know.
I asked first I want to change it to paper billing, then I want some kind of notification whenever it changes. She said notification goes out via SMS. Well I am on a MIFI - no SMS here. She updated the system to send me notifications via the mail(I would hope their system would detect the only device they have for me doesn't support SMS and automatically use another method but No it doesn't). There wasn't more she could do, I was transferred to another rep who said about the same thing. They assured me it was fixed.
Shortly thereafter I got a paper bill, and I paid it like I always do, yay no more problems.
Fast forward more time (a month or two who knows) to today - I get another bill-like thing in the mail from Sprint. But it's not a bill - it's another one of those Hey pay your bill so you can get your service back things. Here I was thinking it felt like too much time had elapsed since my last bill.
Ok now I'm F$##$ pissed. WTF. I would hope that their system would say this guy stopped paying his bills once he was switched to e-billing so there is probably not a coincidence here. Obviously they have no such system.
So I logged onto Sprint again, and could not find the 'billing preferences' part of the site that I found earlier in the year, the only link was 'switch to e-billing to be green'. I didn't want to click it as I wasn't sure what it would do - I did not want to click it and have it sign me up for e-billing I wanted the transaction to be logged in a different way - I didn't want them to be able to say HEY you asked our system today to switch you.
So I called again, and sort of like my experience in 2005 I had a hard time getting to a customer service rep. But I managed to by telling their system I wanted to be a new customer and then asking that rep to transfer me to billing dept. On one of my attempts I hit zero so many times (sometimes works to get to an operator) that their system just stopped responding, sat there for a a good two minutes in silence before I hung up and tried again.
THAT rep then confirmed that I HAD requested to be set to PAPER BILLS earlier in the year but apparently the other reps forgot a little hidden feature that says "PAPER BILLS ALL THE TIME" or "PAPER BILL ON DEMAND". They didn't have ALL THE TIME SET. Despite my continuous questions of the original reps.
Despite how pissed off I was in both occasions I was very polite to the reps. I didn't want to be one of those customers, this time around it was significantly more difficult to keep calm but I managed to do so. But Sprint sure is trying hard to lose me as a customer. There's really no reason for me to stay other than I'm locked into the contract until September. On a device I hardly ever use (maybe I've transferred 150 megabytes the entire year so far).
Sprint is ditching the WiMax network (which is obviously what the 4G portion of my Mifi uses), they've neutered their premier membership stuff (as a 12 year customer I was and still am a member), they've bet their future on the iPhone(a device I will never use), they've messed up my billing twice in less than six months and then think I'm the bad guy for not paying my bills (well the reps didn't say that but it certainly feels that way when collection agencies start contacting me).
On top of that I've committed a lot of money to GSM Palm phones which means I pretty much have to stick to AT&T for the foreseeable future, if I want to use those phones. I suppose T-mobile is technically an option but the frequency differences make for a degraded experience.
There are so many other ways the situations could of been handled better by technology - the most simple as I mention - I don't pay the bill unless I get a paper bill in the mail. I don't like e-bills. Sprint did not make any attempt to contact me by mail or by phone (I'm not a voice customer anymore though I expect they should have my phone# as a contact number since it hasn't changed in 12 years) when they put me back on e-billing for a second time in six months.
I'm probably one of the well sought out customers - pretty low usage - but subscribe to unlimited plans because I don't like surprises in the mail and I don't want to have to worry about minutes in the event something comes up and I have a long phone call to make or something. I must be gold for their Mifi stuff since I almost never use the thing, but I still pay the $50/mo to keep the service up.
Will Sprint F*$@ up again between now and 9/5/2012 ? I'm counting the days until my contract is up, I really don't see what they could possibly do to keep me as a customer at this point.
I guess 1385 words is short for me.
This isn't really what I expected when I said Sprint would likely take away it's unlimited data plans, in fact I explicitly thought they would not touch their 4G service because iPhones don't do Wimax, and I figure it's fairly uncommon for iPhone people to get Mifis.
Sprint Nextel is ending unlimited data plans for all devices except smartphones, bringing the era of all-you-can-eat mobile data in the U.S. nearer to a close.
However, Sprint will continue to offer its plans for unlimited data use on phones, including on the Apple iPhone, which Sprint introduced just last week.
I wonder what prompted this move, it's not as if you can incur roaming charges on their 4G network, is there even such a thing as roaming on Wimax ? I'm sure it's theoretically possible but am quite confident it just doesn't happen to Sprint 4G/Clearwire customers. Sprint owns a majority in Clearwire, and has invested billions on it.
For Mobile Hotspot plans on phones, data usage will be capped at 5GB per month of either 3G or combined 3G/4G service, depending on whether the phone can use 4G. Use above that cap will be charged at $0.05 per megabyte.
It is very unfortunate, and surprising move, maybe the executive who came up with this idea came from Netflix.
Their excess charges are well, excessive. AT&T I believe charges $10/GB for going over, which to me is reasonable, Sprint would charge, at a 1GB rate $51 for 1GB over the limit.
The AT&T excess charge is very similar to getting a higher plan which was nice to see, I mean when I signed up, I got the 2GB plan, and if I happened to use 3-4GB, the charges for that would be no different than if I had signed up for a larger plan.
It would be less bad if the devices had an automatic cutoff once you hit the limit, but of course there isn't. My Mifi is nice enough to tell me how much data I use in a particular session but has no aggregation features. Which I've always found strange why phones and other devices don't have functionality to keep track of that kind of stuff, I suppose it could be intentional, if it were, it would be even more unfortunate.
Luckily for me this change won't impact me much at all I don't believe, but still, very unfortunate for all round.
I came across a post from someone who has kept much closer track as to the changes Sprint has implemented than I have:
- Removal of the Sprint Premiere Membership Program and the removal of all its benefits
- Using your phone as a Mobile Hotspot no longer has unlimited data but is now capped. It still costs the same $30.
- Adding a $10 a month 4g charge to every 4g line on an account regardless of whether you get 4g reception or not. This charge was then expanded to include all smartphones on the Sprint network, even if they weren’t capable of 4g.
- No more Billing to Account.
- An increase in administrative fees per line.
- Raising the Early Termination Fee on an account by $150 to $350 for each phone line.
- Changing the arbitration rules for settling customer disputes in a way that heavily favors Sprint.
- Stopping people from leaving Sprint because of the arbitration changes without being charged the ETF, even though Federal Courts have ruled that changes in arbitration rules are a material change in the contract.
- Eliminating unlimited 4g data from it’s Mobile Broadband plans.
- Dropping WIMAX for their new LTE 4g network. This not only means that if you do not have 4g currently, you will never have it for your current 4g phone but also that all Sprint 4g phones being sold today, even if you are within a current 4g area, will stop operating as 4g at the end of next year because they will not work on Sprint’s new network.
Sprint your not doing me any favors encouraging me to use your service, even after charging what seemed to be a $50 fee to terminate my phone service even though I have not been on a contract for over a year(and having been a customer for 10 years), now eliminating my unlimited data on my remaining service with you. I recently purchased a AT&T 3G/4G mifi from dailysteals for $60. It's unlocked, I thought I'd keep it handy as a backup, now it looks like it may be a a full time replacement for my Mifi when my contract is up next year.
Someone else mentioned a federal law saying with such a material change in the contract existing users have the legal right to terminate the contract without penalty, I may just do that. Even if I have to return the Mifi I have, it's not as if I need it anyways.
I've been a Sprint customer for about 11 years now, never really had an issue, well I had a billing issue in 2005 I think which was annoying to deal with, but besides that for the most part no issues over the years.
Sprint was known to have bad customer service for a while - fortunately I rarely had to deal with them. Sprint, like T-mobile have been bleeding customers over recent years due to iPhone usage. Sprint of course jumped in head first with the new iPhone 4GS, not too surprising I guess, it is unfortunate that the market has come to that though.
Sprint has committed to buy at least 30.5 million iPhones, even though it would likely lose money on the deal until 2014, according to people familiar with the matter.
What is more surprising (to me at least) is today's announcement that Sprint is going to more or less abandon WiMax and build out a LTE network. I haven't looked into the nitty gritty details yet but it seems like a risky move after having invested all this in WiMax just to walk away and commit to spending $10+ billion to upgrade their existing network with LTE instead of enhancing WiMax even further, after all they are a majority shareholder of Clearwire, a company that has it's HQ not far from where I used to live.
One reason Sprint seems to give for the switch is LTE will support more users - they expect to be able to support 250 million users by 2013 vs 120 million on WiMax. For a company with 52 million customers, building a network to support 250 million seems kind of excessive.
I understand that LTE is more of a standard and will be better supported but it's still a huge loss to have invested all that in WiMax and not get enough out it to continue developing it. I see this article that mentions Sprint spending $2.5 billion on Wimax through the end of 2008.
What was most surprising to me, was not anything that hit the major headlines, Sprint is abandoning their customer loyalty program Sprint Premier. I got the letter in the mail about a week ago.
What is next? I think Sprint's unlimited data plans will probably be the next to go. iPhone users use a lot of data, more than Sprint is expecting I think. Verizon killed their unlimited data plan just months after they got the iPhone. This probably won't impact 4G WiMax service (at least as long as Sprint offers it) since iPhone users can't use 4G it won't kill that network.
I recently switched off of Sprint for cell phone service onto AT&T so I could use my new GSM Pre3 handsets. I'm still a Sprint customer with my 3G/4G Mifi at least until my contract is up next year.
I hope Sprint recovers, we really need them to stick around.