There has been a lot of chatter about Sprint in the tech blogosphere the past couple of days. In light of recent news, we thought it might be a good time to revisit what Sprint might be planning for HTC EVO users.
First, it seems that Sprint is making some changes for the worse. In case you haven't heard, the Sprint Premier loyalty program has ended for new customers, effective immediately. Current Premier customers have until December 31, 2011 to enjoy their remaining benefits, and Premier Gold customers will have until the end of 2012 to use their annual upgrades.
This means that it will no longer be possible for long-time Sprint customers or big spenders to be eligible for yearly upgrades. In addition, Sprint is no longer offering one year contracts or early upgrade discounts of $75. Instead, all Sprint customers across the board will be eligible for the standard $150 upgrade discount after 20 months (formerly 22).
These program cuts come in addition to increased upgrade fees of $36 per line (formerly $18), and a new 14 day exchange and return policy (formerly 30 days), effective tomorrow. In the most recent Sprint playbook, which details all of these changes to Sprint employees, these cutbacks are positioned as a way to "invest in areas that matter to our customers" while creating "parity with the competition" and continuing to "satisfy the needs of customers."
So what are these "investments" that Sprint alludes to, and what areas does Sprint think really matter most to its customers?
To put it bluntly: yes, these changes suck right now. But Sprint is a business, and it has to do whatever it takes to remain competitive against the likes of AT&T and Verizon. Sprint is also well aware that customers are quickly becoming disillusioned at a network that is increasingly bogged down and overloaded. So if these changes are a means to cutting operating costs and using the savings to improve their ailing network, then I'm not necessarily opposed to them.
I don't think that the the timing of these changes is a coincidence, especially since Sprint is planning a big announcement in just a few weeks on October 7, when supposedly everything will become clear. Indeed, some sources are even claiming that part of this big announcement will include the conversion of Sprint's entire 3G coverage area to EVDO Rev B, a technology that will provide 4G-like speeds that are comparable to to WiMAX, but at a much lower cost for Sprint.
That would certainly make sense, given the fact that the upgrade would, for the most part, only be a simple software update. Additionally, the HTC EVO 3D does have Rev B compatibility right out of the box. With speeds of up to 9Mbps down and 2Mbps up, Sprint could very quickly advertise that 4G speeds are available across most of its network, similar to how AT&T and T-Mobile are marketing HSPA+.
A quick deployment of Rev B could also buy Sprint the time it needs to work with Clearwire and LightSquared in building out their brand new LTE network, perhaps even jumping ahead in the game and heading straight to LTE Advanced. As was just reported yesterday, it seems LightSquared finally has a plausible fix for their GPS interference issues. So with Sprint's new cost-saving measures that I detailed above, there's really nothing stopping it from jumping fully on board with LightSquared, and possibly even purchasing Clearwire.
Of course, take all of this for what it is: pure speculation, and a hope that Sprint's new cutbacks are due to bigger and better things that are in the pipeline. But if this actually pans out the way I think it might, things are really looking up for HTC EVO users – as long as we can cope with these growing pains for a little while longer.