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Juneau Roaming Report - DigiTel / ACS

Discussion in 'Western US Wireless Forum' started by TProphet, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. TProphet

    TProphet I *am* a mobile phone
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    As many of you know, I am a Sprint customer. Sprint has roaming agreements with both Alaska DigiTel and ACS Wireless.

    Alaska DigiTel is the still-struggling preferred roaming provider for Sprint. I've never previously used their network in Juneau, but I'm not impressed. It doesn't perform quite as miserably as the one in Fairbanks, but I've experienced numerous issues:

    - Most of the network is still IS-95. Only one tower supports 1xRTT data--in theory at least. I haven't been able to successfully use this service at all, probably due to capacity issues.
    - So, on the subject of capacity, it falls woefully short. When three cruise ships arrive in town at once, disgorging thousands of passengers into the streets of Juneau, the network falls over and dies. I've gotten constant "System Busy" messages, and Alaska DigiTel acknowledged the issue, noting long-term plans to address it with their pending EV-DO upgrade.
    - I'm able to send text messages, but not receive them for some reason. I reported the issue to Sprint and Alaska DigiTel; the latter carrier plans to follow up in an effort to repair the issue. I'll report later as to whether these efforts were successful.
    - The CDMA1900 network consists of only 7 towers throughout Juneau, Douglas Island and the Mendenhall Valley. This creates very patchy coverage with lots of drop zones.
    - Worst job in Juneau: Alaska DigiTel representative. The tired rep offered no assistance other than to give gave me the phone number of customer service in Anchorage. With a dismissive sigh, she said "We have issues."

    ACS is the secondary roaming partner for Sprint, and I've been spending a lot of time on their network due to the above-mentioned Alaska DigiTel issues. Unfortunately, it's not all roses with them etiher...

    - Coverage, while markedly superior to Alaska DigiTel, does not meet Lower 48 standards. For example, there is no coverage at all inside the Juneau Wal-Mart, and coverage is poor inside Costco. These are both extremely popular shopping destinations in Juneau.
    - Text messaging does not work at all, either to send or receive. ACS says it's working for their customers and they're supposedly researching why it's not working for me.
    - EV-DO data is available in Juneau, but it's not showing as available on my handset. No matter, 1xRTT data would be sufficient, but unfortunately it doesn't work either (I receive "registration failure" when I attempt to use it). ACS says it's working for their customers and they're supposedly researching why it's not working for me.

    ** EDIT: Wow, that was quick! I just got an email from ACS (almost unbelievably, an email from an actual person complete with a direct phone number to reach her). They confirmed that their roaming agreement with Sprint is for voice only, which is why text and data services aren't working. So, if you're a Sprint customer, be prepared for life without data when you're roaming on the ACS network (this is entirely contrary to Sprint's coverage maps).

    So, as usual, CDMA roaming is a rocky experience for Alaska visitors. The GSM network operated by AT&T (ex Dobson Cellular), meanwhile, has been flawless--apart from slightly less geographical coverage than the ACS CDMA network. Coverage quality is similar to ACS, also not meeting Lower 48 standards.
     
    #1 TProphet, Jun 30, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2008
  2. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Thanks for the report. Glad I have no need to visit Alaska!
     
  3. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Would have been cool to see if analog is still available up there.
     
  4. Analog man

    Analog man Member
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    analog probly is, Tphrophet, u test analog yet too? it'd make sense to use analog up there since is a sparcly populated area and analog is well suited for that. u could probly roam of telus if ur close enough to canada, telus is keeping thier analog.
     
  5. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Thanks for the coverage report. I'm not surprised that cruises crush the inferior networks. I would think that carriers should have anticipated that when a cruise ship comes in everyone is going to try to make a call or use other features but maybe they just don't have the money to build a more robust network.

    Analog is quite big in Alaska. Carriers up there still operate analog, and in many places all you can get is analog signal because it doesn't make sense to upgraded to anything else. TDMA is alive and well in parts of Alaska too which is probably exciting for the locals because they can use great features like text messaging. Yes TDMA is wonderful.
     
  6. Analog man

    Analog man Member
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    One of these days, im packing ma snow boots and my microtac....
     
  7. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Hahahaha

    Well when the day comes make sure you post a report.
     
  8. TProphet

    TProphet I *am* a mobile phone
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    Hi from Sitka!

    Sorry, I don't have an analog-capable handset with me. ACS indicated that they are continuing their analog service as long as there is demand. Since Dobson's network was recently acquired by AT&T, I expect them to discontinue analog service soon if they have not done so already (this has been their M.O. in other territories they control). I carry both an AT&T GSM handset and a Sprint CDMA handset, and the combination has allowed me coverage in most places I used to have service on my Sprint handset using a combination of digital and analog service. Unfortunately, the distance limitations on digital technologies are evident, particularly in a place like Alaska where you may be hitting a tower quite distant from your current location.

    A quick update on my conversation with Sprint... I opened a series of trouble tickets to indicate the problems I was having. I'm very disappointed to note that Sprint is up to its same old customer-unfriendly and problem-avoiding ways.

    The first issue I reported was that text messaging was one-way when roaming on the Alaska DigiTel network, and 1xRTT data service was not available at all. The ticket was closed a day later with no call-back or communication with me whatsoever. The reason for the ticket closure? Clearly, based on the coverage maps, 1xEV-DO service was not available. Obviously, these folks are paid based on how many tickets they close, not how many issues they resolve, to close an entirely legitimate ticket for a completely unrelated reason.

    I called back to re-open the ticket ,and further to create another ticket about voice-only roaming on ACS (no data or SMS). I specifically requested a call back, but expect these tickets to also be closed with no issues resolved and no communication with me. I honestly don't know why I bother, Sprint is so unresponsive and customer-unfriendly anyway... *sigh*

     
  9. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Could it be that any trouble ticket involving Alaska automatically gets closed within 24 hours. ;)
     
  10. TProphet

    TProphet I *am* a mobile phone
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    Well, I finally gave up dealing with the normal techs and sent mail to dan@sprint.com. Let's see if this has any result...

    Hi Dan,

    Are your support staff paid based on how many tickets they close rather than how many actual problems they fix?

    My Sprint phone number is (NPA) NXX-XXXX. I have encountered an
    inordinate amount of push-back and stonewalling from your technical
    support department when reporting an entirely legitimate issue with data
    and SMS roaming services in Alaska. Having worked through the proper
    channels and opened multiple trouble tickets beginning on 6/27 without
    getting anywhere, I'm hoping that a letter "straight to the top" will
    help to get this issue resolved.

    Here is a list of issues I encountered while roaming in Alaska, the
    responses of Sprint's local roaming partners (one of which is attached),
    and appropriate supporting documentation.

    ISSUE: MO-SMS is one-way when roaming in Juneau, Alaska on Alaska
    DigiTel (SID 04097). I could send SMS, but not receive them (although on
    7/4, I did receive about 5 messages sporadically throughout the day).

    LOCAL CARRIER RESPONSE: I contacted Alaska DigiTel to inform them of the
    issue. They were not sure of the reason but acknowledged the issue and
    suggested that I have Sprint contact them to perform further
    troubleshooting.

    SPRINT RESPONSE: The trouble ticket was closed (without contacting me)
    because 1xEV-DO service is not available in Juneau. 1xEV-DO service is
    not required for MO-SMS functionality, so this was an entirely spurious
    excuse to close the trouble ticket.

    ISSUE: 1xRTT service is not available on the Alaska DigiTel system in
    Juneau.

    LOCAL CARRIER RESPONSE: Alaska DigiTel said there are known issues with data
    service, but they do not intend to correct them until the system is
    updated to EV-DOrA.

    SPRINT RESPONSE: Sprint called me today and informed me that I do not
    have a supported device for data roaming, so they will not pursue the
    issue with Alaska DigiTel. I have a Sanyo 9000. It data roams just fine,
    I do it all the time on Verizon and US Cellular. In fact, it even data
    roams _internationally_ just fine. See
    SPRINT PCS - and
    it shows up on the list of supported devices for this service!

    ISSUE: MO-SMS service is not available when roaming on the ACS Wireless
    network (SID 05682 and SID 05685). Neither 1xRTT or 1xEV-DO services are
    available either.

    LOCAL CARRIER RESPONSE: ACS explained that their roaming agreement with Sprint
    was initiated when the only compatible service ACS offered was AMPS.
    Obviously, this only included voice service, since this is all the AMPS
    network supported. Now that ACS has a CDMA network, the roaming
    agreement has never been updated to support these services. ACS
    indicated that their network has full MO-SMS, 1xRTT and 1xEV-DO service,
    and they have a roaming agreement with Verizon incorporating all of
    these services. Please see the attached (although slightly less
    detailed) response from the carrier.

    SPRINT RESPONSE: Sprint called me today and informed me that I do not
    have a supported device for data roaming, so they will not pursue the
    issue with ACS. I have a Sanyo 9000. It data roams just fine, I do it
    all the time on Verizon and US Cellular. In fact, it even data roams
    _internationally_ just fine. See
    SPRINT PCS - and
    it shows up on the list of supported devices for this service!

    SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION: Please see the email from ACS Wireless,
    attached. I copied
    SPRINT PCS -
    into a Word document, attached, in case you do not have Internet access
    to review it. I also invite you to review my account for roamer billing
    records. You will doubtless notice that using my Sanyo 9000, I've
    managed to roam on Verizon, US Cellular, and Alltel (to name a few
    carriers) *just fine* with MO-SMS, 1xRTT, and voice services. Why? It's
    a fully supported device for data roaming.

    MY EXPECTATION: Roaming should be as close to a seamless experience as
    possible and it's my sincere hope that Sprint will use the very detailed
    information I have provided to address these issues with its Alaska
    roaming partners. I'm incredibly frustrated that in the time that Sprint
    has spent pushing back and trying to avoid even looking at these
    problems, you could probably have fixed them 3 times already.
     
  11. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Well written message. Hope you get a good response.
     
  12. TProphet

    TProphet I *am* a mobile phone
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    Wirelessly posted (Sanyo 6600: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; OpenWeb 5.6.1.3-03) Opera 8.54)

    Got a call from Dan's office today. They're going to send this back to their tech support department and ask that they take another look. Stay tuned...
     

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