Trouble getting a cell signal indoors? Sprint says it has a fix.
The company will soon offer customers their own mini cellular antenna designed to provide better LTE coverage inside businesses, homes and the surrounding areas, Sprint said Wednesday.
The device called the Sprint Magic Box simply plugs into the wall for power and acts as a cellular signal booster, providing 4G LTE service. Unlike other boosters, this one doesn't require a broadband connection. Instead, the Magic Box has a dedicated cellular channel to the nearest Sprint cell tower. It's the size of a large shoebox and must be placed near a window.
The Magic Box comes as Sprint faces tough competition from rivals AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. For years, Sprint has suffered a poor reputation when it comes to its network. And although it's made improvements, the company is still losing customers. The Magic Box and other network improvements could help change this perception. Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has vowed that Sprint will become No. 1 or No. 2 in terms of network quality by the end of next year.
The devices will be available to "qualifying" customers free of charge, Sprint said. It will first offer them to business customers, but consumers who want one for their homes may also sign up for Magic Box in the future. Sprint hasn't provided information on who a "qualifying" customer is, but customers can check the Sprint website to see if they qualify.
Carriers have traditionally been shy about mentioning signal boosters because they're a tacit admission that network coverage can be spotty. But Sprint said it will likely be more proactive in pushing these boxes because they offer a benefit to the customer and the surrounding area. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said he expects to ship millions of the units over the next few years.
The Magic Box offers a cell signal for up to 30,000 square feet indoors and extends to 100 meters outdoors, which means even neighbors or people on the street will get improved coverage when one is installed. Sprint claims the device improves speeds for customers by 200 percent.
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