Here’s why your triband LTE Sprint phone won’t connect to LTE

Sprint Spark

If you just picked up a triband LTE phone for use with Sprint service, but you’ve discovered that it won’t seem to connect to LTE on its own, there is a good reason. It turns out that Sprint is purposely offering triband LTE customers a degraded network experience in areas where its Network Vision rollout isn’t complete.

Before we continue, this only affects several devices: the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Galaxy S4 mini, the Galaxy Mega, the LG G2, the Google Nexus 5, and the HTC One max.

Before Sprint started selling these triband devices, the LTE devices on offer all supported two separate transmission paths on CDMA 1xRTT and on LTE. This allowed customers to continue making and receiving texts and phone calls while remaining connected to the LTE network. The technology behind that is Simultaneous Voice and LTE (SVLTE), and the current triband devices on offer do not support this.

Instead, the One max, Nexus 5, and G2 are only technologically capable of handling one transmission path – either CDMA for voice or texts, or LTE for data. Luckily, Sprint’s network theoretically can handle this, and let the device know when to connect to CDMA and when to connect to LTE. That way, if a customer is streaming a movie or LTE, the network can tell the phone to temporarily disconnect from LTE to receive a phone call.

This type of network technology that allows such seamless switching is called Circuit Switched Fallback (CSFB) and Enhanced Circuit Switched Fallback (eCSFB). Unfortunately, Sprint hasn’t deployed this to most of its network yet. Areas that don’t have it already have no expected time frame for the rollout of this network technology, and since your smartphone is designed to prefer the ability to make and receive phone calls at all costs, it is programmed to stay on CDMA.

A temporary work around is to force the phone to connect manually to LTE only in the phone’s hidden network settings, but the side effect is that calls and texts won’t go through.

Obviously, this is a real problem – it’s one that Sprint has not been transparent about, that is affecting lots of people in lots of areas. Ideally, Sprint would warn customers of the situation before buying an affected device, but this hasn’t been the case.

So be forewarned before buying your next smartphone. It might be best to hold on to that EVO 4G LTE or HTC One a bit longer, before upgrading to a newer device.

[GeekThanks, Michel!

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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.