Sprint this week announced "The Sprint Magic Box" - the "World’s First All-Wireless Small Cell" designed to act as a relay to help overcome Sprint's notorious problem with indoor slow speeds and dead zones.
Sprint describes the box this way:
"The Sprint Magic Box is an indoor, self-configuring small cell, about the size of a shoebox, that’s easy for customers to install. It requires no implementation, labor, or rental costs that are a hurdle for many traditional small cell deployments. The unit is simply placed near a window and plugged into a power outlet. Sprint Magic Box connects to a nearby Sprint cell site and within minutes is up and running. Customers immediately have a better experience inside their businesses and homes while streaming videos, surfing the web, and using their favorite online apps and services."
The good news - Sprint is planning to give Magic Boxes away for free to "qualifying" customers.
The bad news - the Magic Box is intended for fixed-location installations only, and it relies on having a strong LTE Band-41 signal outdoors.
In other words - for RVers who travel, the magic may be lacking.
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Table of Contents
Sprint’s LTE Band 41 Problem
Sprint's LTE network is built on top of three frequency bands:
- LTE Band 26 - 800MHz Cellular
- LTE Band 25 - 1900MHz PCS
- LTE Band 41 - 2.5GHz BRS
Lower frequencies (like Band 26) provide more raw range from the tower - and these signals are better able to penetrate walls, terrain, and into buildings.
Higher frequencies on the other hand have the potential to deliver vastly faster speeds, and can handle a lot more simultaneously connected users at once. But... Higher frequencies do not travel nearly as far, and have an especially hard time penetrating through obstructions.
And unfortunately for Sprint - the bulk of Sprint's raw network capacity is located in LTE Band 41, which just doesn't pass through even thin walls well at all.
So Sprint's "Magic" idea - bring the signal in through a window!
How The Magic Box Works
The Magic Box is one of the first devices to support Sprint's "High Performance User Equipment" (HPUE) technology, which extends the maximum range of Band 41 by up to 30%.
So the Magic Box with its large integrated antennas and HPUE support may be able to find a Band 41 signal even when the vast bulk of existing pre-HPUE Sprint devices can't.
That is the first bit of magic.
When the Magic Box is placed in a window and powered on, it finds the nearest LTE Band 41 Sprint tower and partners with it - establishing a HPUE-boosted LTE Band 41 backhaul connection to the tower.
The Magic Box then broadcasts its own low-power Band 41 signal - acting as a tiny Sprint cell tower, filling the indoor area with Sprint coverage, and Sprint claims on average doubled cellular performance.
Sprint says that one Magic Box can provide coverage for 30,000 square feet of indoor space, and the signal can also extend coverage 100 meters outside - "benefitting Sprint customers in nearby buildings and improving street–level network performance".
Up to 64 simultaneous connections are supported through a Magic Box at once.
This is why Sprint is eager to give Magic Boxes away for free - it helps all Sprint customers nearby, and it is surely a lot cheaper than building new cell towers.
Sprint CTO John Saw told Wireless Week:
"That’s what’s going to make the Sprint network very interesting. We’re now getting our customers to actually help us build strong coverage in the neighborhoods where they live."
Getting a Magic Box
A Magic Box isn't a typical cell booster - it only works with Sprint, it only works on LTE Band 41, and it only works if your address is "qualified" as an area where Sprint wants to take advantage of this technology to fill in the gaps in its coverage map.
In other words - this is not something you can take on the road in any practical sense. The Magic Box will probably even shut itself down if you take it away from its prescribed service address.
But for RVers who happen to have a seasonal home base that is in a qualifying Sprint area, the Magic Box may be the ticket to better indoor coverage - for you and your neighbors.
To add yourself to the waiting list to get one, you can sign up here.