Blacklist that prevented Sprint MVNOs from activating newly released Sprint phones until they had been on the market for at least a year. You should now be able to Bring Your Own Sprint Phone (BYOSP) to a Sprint MVNO, even if it's a recent flagship like the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Note 4. In addition, Sprint Prepaid, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile phones are also now officially allowed on Sprint MVNOs for the first time.
At least that's the theory, unfortunately whatever Sprint did that was supposed to allow newer phones appears to have almost completely broken the Sprint MVNO activation system. Most phones that were eligible under the old rules are now failing Sprint's Financial Eligibility Check (FEC) criteria.
The FEC is supposed to block phones whose current or previous owner owes money to Sprint. This isn't new, Sprint has always blocked phones with unpaid outstanding bills. But something has changed and now phones that used to be OK are failing, including brand new iPhones from the Apple Store and Nexus phones from the Google Play Store that have never been used on Sprint. I've heard estimates that up to 50% of used Sprint phones from eBay or Swappa are also failing Sprint's newly revised FEC check.
This situation has got to be devastating to Sprint MVNOs, most of whom rely on BYOSP for almost all new customer activations. Sprint has destroyed the wholesale and retail market for new and used MVNO ready Sprint postpaid phones. Brand new Sprint postpaid phones purchased at full price and off-contract used phones with no money owed on them are failing Sprint's MVNO check. These are phones that are OK according to standard ESN checkers like Swappa's and CheckESNFree and that Sprint CS will tell you are OK when you call them. This change by Sprint has caused countless hours of extra work for MVNO staff and independent MVNO dealers.Without a reliable supply of BYOSP devices I don't think many Sprint MVNOs will be able to survive.
It's not clear if Sprint has any intention to fix BYOSP either. Some MVNO's representatives are more optimistic than others:
- Ting is saying that except for phones purchased new for the Apple Store, the Google Play Store or at full price from Sprint which they can activate manually, devices that are currently failing the FEC will probably never be able to be activated.
- FreedomPop says that a solution is "underway" with no hint as to when.
- RingPlus says they are working with Sprint and other MVNOs to find a solution. Again no ETA. Like Ting, RingPlus can manually activate phones purchased new for the Apple Store, the Google Play Store or at full price from Sprint. Manual activation takes a couple of days and is "intensely manual" according to RingPlus' CTO.
As time goes on it's starting to look like the new FEC rules are here to stay. According to Ting VP of Marketing Michael Goldstein "A large portion of devices out there are linked to outstanding debts with Sprint and, except for a few errors we might find here and there, they are not going to be allowed to activate on services like ours that run on Sprint."
Prospective Sprint MVNO customers need to check that the ESN or MEID of any phone they intend to buy passes either the Ting ESN checker, RingPlus checker or FreedomPop checker. Other checkers, including Swappa's, may not have been updated to be aware of Sprint's new financial eligibility requirements.
Updated 3/21: Ting is now reporting that many devices that previously failed the FEC are now passing. See this Ting blog post and this PepaidPhoneNews post for more information.