AccessoriesGood and EVO

Hands on with the Sprint Airave 2.5 wireless in home signal booster [updated]

2012 12 19 11.24.40 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

If you’ve been living in a basement, you might have heard of the Sprint Airave 2.5 in-home signal booster, because you probably have nearly no cell reception. The Airave is basically a portable Sprint tower that works by using your home’s internet connection and, presumably, a point to point data connection to the nearest Sprint tower to broadcast a 3G signal to up to six CDMA devices in up to a 5000-square-feet range.

Living right next to a Sprint cell tower, you wouldn’t think that I’d have much of an issue. Indeed, I get full signal, but I miss calls left and right and have next to no 3G data speeds. Since receiving phone calls is actually something I require, and GrooveIP and my voicemail have been informing me I’m missing roughly a third of my calls, I decided to see if Airave could do anything for me.

Now, I also have two locations I work at that have about a ton of metal between me and the nearest window, so this is primarily why I wanted to try this, but it worked the same at those locations as it did my house.

2012 12 19 11.26.21 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here
Without Airave, 216k down, 34K up

First off, this does not appear to be a thing you can just take and pop in to any location you’re going. The Airave requires a GPS lock, then does some sort of provisioning with the nearest tower, and finally starts broadcasting a great 3G signal even if you’re in a basement. There’s a GPS antennae extender that promptly turns into a tangle of wire if you move it from place to place, but luckily for me the Airave worked without any issues at all the locations I’ve tried it without requiring the long GPS wire attached.

The longest time it took to grab a location and provision was about thirty minutes, and the shortest time was about four. Unfortunately, the place where it takes the longest is also the place where I need it the most, so it’s still an issue of me walking in and plugging it in and popping open GrooveIP until such time as it gets the location lock.

I tried calling my phone over and over again from a landline while near the Airave, and every call came through in a ring or two. I also never had what I experienced on regular towers of picking up and one person not being able to hear the other. Before the Airave, it was about one out of five calls missed, and about the same for mute calls.

When the Airave is on and you’re connected, you get three beeps at the beginning of each call to let you know you’re connected. The audio also seems to have a tinnish background sound, but the quality is better than low signal quality. It sounds like a different vocal codec, and if feels like there’s a little less lag. I’m assuming this varies from ISP to ISP.

2012 12 19 11.24.28 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here
With the Airave, 2047k down, 710k up
An improvement of 950% down and 2000% up

Another thing you’ll notice is that some of your contacts have to be stored strangely, i.e. +16155555555 may fail where 615555555 might work on the Airave, but both work on the tower. You’ll get random messages like, “The number or code you have dialed is incorrect,” which is short for “Check how it’s dialing this number.”

The Airave picks up and drops off almost seamlessly with the nearby towers. You can walk out of the range and you’ll hear yourself moved to another tower, the background sound will change slightly, and you’ll be able to move on. Unfortunately, this does not work the same from Airave to Airave, so if you’re in a large office building you won’t be able to switch between the two. You can go Airave to cell tower and back to a different Airave, but if there’s no signal in between those two, the call will drop.

Right now, my Airave is sitting at a friend’s basement apartment while she waits for hers to show. The speed test pictures show the before and after speed tests standing in the same location. The one-bar picture is without the Airave, the full-bar is with.

Now, the speeds are determined by what your internet is capable of pushing or pulling, but you can see they’re pretty decent.

One of the unadvertised benefits for people with next to no signal is significant battery life improvement. If you’re not having to punch through a wall to get your signal out to the nearest tower, your phone lasts longer, and charges significantly faster.

The Airave is available in many instances for free from Sprint, with the only cost to you being an FCC device tax tacked onto your bill. However, if you don’t use the Airave for months and don’t return it, Sprint will charge you a device replacement fee of $140. If you don’t plan to use the Airave, they’ll ship you a box to ship it back in for free, though.

The Airave has turned a crappy work signal and a terrible home tower into something I can live with while I await the the upgrades to both towers that are in the works. It’s also given a friend of mine the ability to make calls from her house to Sprint, so she can get mine back to me.

It’s a pretty neat product if you’re having serious issues with signal, which is what I was having in two out of three places I regularly am.

Be prepared to list addresses where you’re going to use it, what ISP you’re using at each location, and whether you have permission from the network administrator to use the device in the building.

[Sprint]

Update: this was visited again after four and a half months of use.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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40 thoughts on “Hands on with the Sprint Airave 2.5 wireless in home signal booster [updated]

  • Avatar of Greg L

    Do you know if they’ve fixed the sms bug with the Airave? You cannot send text messages over something like 129 characters. If you send one over 160 and it gets split into multiple messages, the first message never makes it to the recipient. If you send 1 text that is under 160 characters but over 129 (I think that’s the magic number), it won’t make it to the recipient.

    It’s a well documented bug in the Airave forums but as a owner (renter/leaser/freeloader) of a Airave, I’ve not heard of it being fixed. I’ve actually stopped using mine because it was so frustrating. I kept getting texts back that say, “I didn’t get the first part of that.”

    Reply
    • Avatar of Abraham

      I wonder this as well.
      My sister has horrible signal in her apartment. I have never suggested her to use the airave, because of this very bug.

      It is better to have low signal, than to just plain out have SMS’s not going through properly.

      Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      I do not know, I will get my friend who is in possession of the thing to send me a very long sms. I use google voice so it never was an issue.

      Reply
    • I got the Airave a couple months ago and only about 20% of my SMS messages would make it to the recipients. I life in Phoenix which we all know is Sprint’s last stop in making any network upgrades. I’ve sent my Airave back and set our phones to roam the entire time. Strike 2 Sprint…

      Reply
  • Avatar of Brando

    I actually have one of these coming in a day or two. They sent it out to me for free, and arn’t charging me a monthly fee. Will this also work with virgin mobile devices? Like the HTC One V? Anyone know?

    Reply
  • Avatar of Greg L

    You also have to be careful with the setup, or it may cripple your upload speeds. Check out this forum post for details: http://community.sprint.com/baw/message/336582

    They may have changed how they come pre-configured, but mine came as it’s stated in that link above. Basically the upload speeds are set assuming you have a DSL connect. blah You have to go into the route controls and increase the upload speed cap.

    Reply
  • Avatar of andrew b

    I attempted to get one from sprint a few months ago and was told that i dont qualify for one due to various reasons such as i dont pay enough on my bill, what ever the hell that is supposed to me. been having dropped calls for over 6 months at the house since the have started the tower updates, was told that the update would take up to 3 months the first time i called then i was told 4 months now its 9 months, (it may not be done till feb). thinking about switching carriers because of lake of signal and their unwillingness to help make it any better.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Ditty

    Wanted to share my experience with the airwave. I have had an airwave for a couple years and have had issues with SMS ( duplicate texts, lost texts etc) and the airwave killing my internet speeds. I recently upgraded to the airwave 2.5 and set it up as Sprint insisted ( modem – airwave – router) and was having connection issues. I also was unable to download anything from the play store, it would just hang. My connection from Comcast is excellent. After several hours with Sprint tech support and resetting the airwave etc, etc, I finally decided to put the airwave behind the router (modem – router – airwave). I am now able to download from the play store, my internet speeds are back to normal and I haven’t had SMS issues. If you are having issues and use a router, try setting the airwave up like I described. It may cure your issues.

    Reply
  • I wish they would make something like this that didn’t get tied to an account. The building I work in has terrible reception, for all carriers, except Verizon (because they have an access point on the top of the building). Fortunately, I sit next to a window, but the instant I lean back in my chair, I start losing my call.

    My employer said they would consider buying something like this, and allowing it on the network, if it would help everyone get better cell service. But I’m definitely not going to get one, and pay the monthly fees.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Wayne Tugwell

    Well i can tell you my signal has been great since i recieved my (AIRAVE). i however had to put the (AIRAVE) in front of the Router because i lost wifi Streaming from Youtube, google play store, and any other site that had video or data that had to be streamed, its not the Way sprint said to install but it works on both 3G data and wifi for all my other devices that arent on a data connection or mobile data plan i.e Ipad, PSP Vita(sons), or everyones LAptops.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Matthew

    Would someone post Speed Test.net results
    Before and after?
    Also including bar strength before and after?

    Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      You mean like in the two pictures that are in the article of speedtest.net, one that says before, and one that says after that are above?

      Both include the signal strength bar in the top statusbar of the pictue

      Reply
  • Avatar of Tanner

    on the LTE phones ( EVO LTE and the S3) the Airave seems to have a clicking noise through out the call.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      I actually tested it on the EVO 4G LTE at my house for a couple of days, the friend who’s in a basement is my GS III model. I haven’t noticed any clicking, just a tinny background noise.

      Reply
  • Paul, did you read my article a while back about touch tones on the EVO 4G LTE? It got so bad I had to disconnect my Airrave. I’m wondering if Jelly Bean fixed it… maybe I’ll plug mine back in and see.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      Yeah, I had no problems with the Airave and JB. I have had this thing now for about two weeks and did a lot of calling on the EVO 4G LTE.

      Friend who has it has it until Sprint sends hers has been using it for 4 days and no issues.

      I mean, in both cases I never actually looked if my screen went off, but I’m pretty sure the phone functioned normally in every call I made with the exception of having to change some of my contact numbers to conform to the dialing codes.

      Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      Also, remember if you’ve got that thing disconnected for any length of time they’ll charge you for it…

      Reply
      • Avatar of Greg L

        Yea, I think it’s a month of inactivity. They will mail you a letter warning you. Since I got my letter, I try and make sure that I plug my airave in at least once per month and let it run through the night or something.

        My problem with it is the text bug and if I put it after the router, then the audio drops out in a call and the caller can’t hear me after the first 10 seconds of a call. The signal on mine also doesn’t travel very far through my old house. I get bad reception on the first floor, but decent upstairs. With the Airave setup downstairs, I get great coverage downstairs and bad coverage upstairs. I can’t set it up updairs because of where my cable connections are in our 1900’s house.

        The Airave is one of those things that I REALLY wish worked better. I know the potential is there, but I feel like Sprint is not making it a priority to work out the kinks. I can’t really blame them as I sure they feel finishing their LTE network is more important.

        I’m holding on to mine for a bit longer in case it gets better. I’m hoping that Sprint can get the towers next to my house upgraded in the mean time.

        I generally have 1 or 2 bars of signal at home without using the Airave and when I was using the Airave, I didn’t notice any huge battery enhancement. I was hoping for much more of a different. I don’t have dropped calls at home so the battery help was my main reason for asking for the Airave. Oh well. With my EVO LTE, I get such better battery over my old EGO 4G that isn’t not a big deal.

        Reply
        • Avatar of Paul E King

          Did you attach the GPS antennae? While that thing is supposed to be for GPS signal receive, it also appeared to act as a conduit for the regular signal.

          Reply
        • Avatar of Paul E King

          That sounds like an issue with the router closing UDP ports…

          Open and port forward UDB ports 500, 4500, 53 and 52428 to the Airave.

          Also, what router are you using, and what firmware revision. Lot of these things can be solved by upgrading router firmware.

          Reply
          • Avatar of bspesq

            If you run a caching DNS server at home you cannot forward UDP 53 to the device. DNS will no longer work.

          • Avatar of Paul E King

            If you run a caching DNS server at home chances are you can figure out how to work around this issue pretty easily.

  • Avatar of oscar

    do you still get unlimited data?…on sprints website for FAQ for airave it has this….
    Does the optional AIRAVE unlimited voice plan include incoming and outgoing calls?
    Yes, all domestic outgoing and any incoming voice calls that are made on the AIRAVE are
    included in the optional AIRAVE unlimited voice plan. Data use is not included as part of this
    optional unlimited plan. However, you will still benefit from the enhanced coverage and
    performance. Standard pricing and service restrictions apply.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Greg L

      As I understand it, all that Sprint mumbo jumbo applies to people who purchase the Airave, not to the customer that they send it out to for free. If Sprint offers to send you one for free, the only charge you’ll see if about ~$2 in extra FCC fees. I believe it will include unlimited data.

      Reply
    • Avatar of Paul E King

      If you’re using the Airave in your house it’d be better to get a $10 used wireless router. 54mbits as opposed to 2..

      Data on the Airave is going over your internet connection, I don’t see how Sprint could tack on a charge for that..

      Reply
  • Avatar of Jaymoon

    Leave it to Sprint to find a way to charge more and provide less.

    For all of these free Airaves they are sending out, why not build additional towers instead?

    I’ve had one single tower from Sprint in my town of about 13,000 ever since I signed up for their service back in 2005. The only changes I’m seeing over the past 7 years is a DECREASE in speeds. Yet, Verizon LTE was just flipped on (40mbps down AND up), and T-Mobile and AT&T just built 3 towers each to cover our valley.

    Sprint’s solution? Send out a free box that uses the customers internet instead of providing decent service themselves. Then they send me “helpful tips” in their email newsletter telling me to leave Wi-Fi on instead of using 3G to “improve battery life”…

    LOL… use Wi-Fi for data, use Wi-Fi for calling. Why exactly am I paying for Sprint service again?

    Reply
    • Avatar of OG EVO in CoMo

      “For all of these free Airaves they are sending out, why not build additional towers instead?”

      Airaves are a type of what’s known in the industry as “small cells,” which most carriers, vendors and analysts agree will be the primary way of delivering LTE service. Towers are “macrocells,” and there’s no way — financially or from a zoning perspective — that any carrier could add enough to deliver the speeds that people expect from 4G.

      The Airave is a “femtocell.” The other two types of small cells are picocells and microcells. There are already a lot of 3G picos and micros attached to lampposts in urban areas. In fact, worldwide there are already more — >6 million — small cells deployed than macrocells.

      Reply
  • Avatar of Justin Murray

    I tried one of these and the Airave 2 and they worked great until the Internet would mess up. That is the only weakness with these is that you need to have an Internet connection with these. I eventually went with another carrier because I got sick of relying on my wonderful Internet connection so I can have cell service.

    I got Sprint service when Murphy Brown was still doing the commercials and the only real problems I had with cell signal was going into a valley and would have not minded a cell repeater in my house in 1999-2000 but to have to use one of these in 2012 just to get service is beyond stupid and a step in the wrong direction.

    Reply
  • Avatar of William Devereux

    Good to know. I’m thinking about getting something like this for my house.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Jamie

    Thanks for the heads up! I have one shipping to me right now. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  • Avatar of copeys

    To me, this seems so pointless. I am very glad that I get 3G with near full service everywhere I go, and with very decent speeds at that. Only 20kms out of town do I notice that the service starts to become a little patchy.

    Reply
  • Avatar of gticlay

    We have one at our house because the signal is so poor. When it works, it works well. The problem is that it seems to lose it’s signal from time to time. Like every day or two. Then I have to unplug and re-plug the internet and power cables. Then it works great again for a while. I don’t get why it does that!

    Reply
  • Avatar of xafactor

    Sprint is shipping this to me within the next day. Its a last ditch effort to keep me as a customer from the lousy service ive received over the past 5 years. I may just send it back. The fact that i have to use my own internet connection for this device to even function is strike number one. Despite geting rid of their early upgrade program they also decided to over ride that and give me the option to get a new phone but i would have to sign my life away for another 2 years. I dont know if its worth it

    Reply
  • Has anyone experienced a problem connecting their I pad to the internet after installing a Sprint Airave 2.5 in their house. About 5 days after hooking up the Airave, my Ipad disconnected from my home network and will no longer reconnect

    Reply
  • I just got mine in the mail. I have a broadband modem, and a wireless router. What’s the BEST method for hooking this thing up?

    Reply
  • Christoper, I just have it hooked up via wireless router. Works good everytime. cable from airwave WAN to a wifi modem LAN port. easy.

    Reply
  • My Airave stopped working about two weeks ago. I called support and they said they were going to send a replacement. After waiting over a week, I called them back. The person I talked with had no record of my earlier call and replacement order. He did some diagnostics and said that my Airave was seeing 9 satellites but not locking and this is a known bug with the unit. Now I am waiting for a working unit with no indication of when it will be fixed.

    Reply
  • If you leave your house and you come back after connecting to the airave. I found that you have to do a profile udpate or you will have issues with text.

    Reply

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