Home - , , , , , , - How Sprint's Nov 6, 2015 WiMAX Shutdown Will Affect Boost, Virgin Mobile and FreedomPop Users

How Sprint's Nov 6, 2015 WiMAX Shutdown Will Affect Boost, Virgin Mobile and FreedomPop Users

Sprint has announced that it will be shutting down its WiMAX network on Nov 6, 2015. WiMAX was Sprint's original 4G technology. The network launched in 2008 for mobile Broadband devices. In 2010 Sprint released the first 4G phone from a US operator, the WiMAX enabled HTC EVO 4G.

Although WiMAX allowed Sprint to be the first operator in the US with 4G, WiMAX was quickly eclipsed by LTE which became the predominant 4G technology worldwide. Sprint announced in 2011 that it would abandon WiMAX in favor of LTE. Sprint's last WiMAX device was the Samsung Galaxy S II, which Sprint called the Samsung Epic 4G Touch, released in Sept 2011.

Sprint stopped selling WIMAX devices to postpaid customers at the end of 2012, so there probably aren't a lot of WiMAX devices still active on postpaid accounts. All of Sprint's WiMAX phones and most of its mobile hotspots support EVDO 3G as well as WiMAX and will continue working as 3G only devices after the WiMAX shutdown. Sprint has said that it will offer WiMAX postpaid customers a free or low-cost upgrade to a LTE device.

Sprint has continued to offer dual-mode 3G/WIMAX devices on the Boost and Virgin Mobile prepaid brands throughout 2013 and 2014. Even today, you can buy a 3G/WiMAX hotspot from Virgin Mobile for $71.99. Sprint has said it will notify its prepaid WiMAX customers 180 days before the shutdown, which would be May 10. 2015. I doubt that prepaid WiMAX customers will get free phones or hotspots because their current ones will continue to work as 3G only devices, but hopefully they will at least get a discount on a LTE device.

Sprint MVNO FreedomPop has sold a lot of WiMAX only hotspots and USB sticks. These will stop working 13 months from now. FreedomPop has a device swap program that lets users trade their WiMAX only device for an LTE one by paying the difference in price. FreedomPop's only current LTE mobile broadband device is a hotspot priced at $149.99 plus $9.99 shipping. Most of FreedomPop's WiMAX-only devices were sold for less than $50 so it will cost most customers $100 or more to swap currently. Hopefully LTE device prices will go down between now and the WIMAX shut down late next year.

Sources: Wireless Week, FreedomPop Forums. Image: WiMAX Forum


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  1. Dennis,

    Its disappointing you missed the 'elephant in the room,' namely clear/clearwire that is the key to WiMAX, and McCaw.

    It may seem like just another industry spectrum consolidation action, but historically, it has HUGE ties to Silicon Valley, and the Seattle tech space. This is a notable postscript in the history of mobile technology.




  2. It's really unfortunate WiMax didn't pan out. It was potentially
    a really disruptive technology that would have, if it had achieved
    significant market traction, resulted in really affordable broadband.
    thanks to its standards-based support by many computer
    industry companies. WiMax would have been asubiquitous and
    as cheap as WiFi.

    The possibilities boggle when you consider that a single cell
    could cover an area with a diameter of several miles.

    Instead, the mobile operators embraced LTE, which helped reinforce
    the operators' oligopolies.

    Another abject lesson that the best technology doesn't always win
    out in the marketplace.

    1. Re WiMAX - while a single cell may cover diameters of several miles, pretty much none of those diameters overlapped in my major urban area which made using WiMAX a miserable experience. I bought a Clear iSpot hotspot and used to walk around with it as a signal meter; literally 90% of the places I would have used data had poor or no coverage. The WiMax coverage was so bad that I'd have been totally pissed if I had been paying Sprint their $10/month 4G premium.

      On top of that, at this point Spark has all the characteristics of WiMAX II in terms of coverage and handoff.

    2. The big boys will always do what is best for themselves just like anyone else. Unless the "sheeple" revolt and force change that is in their interest, it should be no surprise that things will be done in such a way that what is best for the elite few, will always prevail over what is best for the majority.

  3. I have a FeedomPop account. I use the Freedom Hub Burst which is a WiMAX only - no 3G fallback router. The highest service level you get with the Burst is a bargain at $18.95 for 10 GBs of data. I haven't seen anything definitive about FreedomPop releasing an LTE version of this router. Why that matters is that the data price tiers for the portable hotspots aren't as cheaply priced (although there is the very limited free option) In addition to that, the Hub Burst offers both WIFI and Ethernet connectivity through the router enabling you to connect desktop computers or other devices that don't have WIFI capabilities. Lastly, I get less than 1 Mbps here with Sprint LTE whereas I get upwards of 10 times that (or more) with the WiMAX. I am only using FreedomPop as a backup now, but I'm going to miss having it around down the road. Particularly the WiMAX Hub Burst.

    1. Most people's experience is the opposite to yours. I just disconnected my FreedomPop after experiencing bandwidth < 2 mbps most of the time for
      the past 6 months, and < 1 mbps for much of the last month. An unscientific
      survey of WiMax users Speedtest results on YouTube showed WiMax from
      2 mbps to ~10 mbps, and non-Spark LTE from 2 mbps to 28 mbps. Spark
      ranged from 10 mbps to 75 mbps, with a theoretical maximum of 1 Gbps.

      Obviously Spark is Sprint's future, if they can roll it out before hell freezes
      over, more likely Verizon with its XLTE and the other operators will
      leapfrog Sprint again. What'll probably happen is that LTE will be the
      new CDMA EVDO, and Spark the new WiMax, and by that time,
      Sprint will be shutting off its CDMA EVDO.

      Sprint's only saving grace is that they are the only ones providing
      real unlimited data with no predefined throttling, at a price less
      than the others. So Sprint gets saddled with bandwidth hogs.

      Btw, I just signed up for and self-activated Comcast's 105 mbps,
      and Speedtest download was 85 mbps. Comcast had a promo,
      105 mbps for ~$60/month with no contract, and their 300 GB data cap
      is high enough that I probably won't hit it. FiOS not available here.
      I should have signed up for Comcast a year ago. 150 mbps is ~$90.
      All Comcast prices are for Internet only. Plus I get to access all of
      Comcast's WiFi hotspots included in the price.

  4. I have used Clearwire on my laptop and from a home base hub for several years. In Columbus, Chicago , St Louis, Orlando , Indy using the away plan, Kansas City the hub is used. There are some time zone issues when switching, but if you change the time zone on your mobile device they get fixed. It beat looking for a WiFi signal at coffee shops and restaurants. It was well worth the cost.

  5. I have a Freedom Pop account, also with the Hub Burst. WiMax is already off in my area (Los Angeles area), so for the little I am home ot use internet, I've been doing the old plug in version. A friend mentioned I could get a wireless router and plug the Hub into that to make it function as wireless if needed...I'm not tech savvy at all. What issues are there with this?

    1. i'm in LA, still have WiMax for another month apparently, and just found out.
      i'm not impressed that i bought a FreedomPop hotspot and only got about a year's use out of it, and only at home (which is mostly pointless since i have wifi set up), since anywhere i've gone there's been no coverage.

      anonymous, if you're not savvy, you can run into a couple bumps putting a router on your hot spot, but even dodgy router support crew can iron out those settings quickly.

  6. WIMAX extended 3 more months. I get to continue use of the Freedompop Hub Burst with 1gb free data per month which is awesome. WOOT

  7. Confirmed WiMax is still working in Denver, Dallas and NYC on my Virgin hotspot. People sucked up 1.5GB on it at one of the airports ;)

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