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RemyJ 10-03-2007 02:13 PM

BlackBerry and the Sprint Airave...Not bad.
In Denver and Indianapolis (and soon Nashville) Sprint is testing a "femtocell" device called the "Airave". Basically it's a mini cdma cell site that plugs into your broadband connection... Sprint

It does 2 things... It can give you a full-blast signal in your home or office where you had only marginal coverage before, and it gives you unlimited calling with no airtime minutes used (for $15). Any Sprint phone can park on it and up to 3 calls can be active at the same time but only those accounts with the $15 add-on get the free minutes. Since I get marginal signal with Sprint at home but great at work, and the opposite with Verizon, I picked up one of these units and a Sprint 8830 to trial for a month. Right now, the Airave itself is free.

The Sprint rep at the store told me outright that at the present time, data does NOT go through the Airave, only voice calls but that the handset should seamlessly switch back and forth between the Airave and the regular network depending on the type of call.

The rep had activated the Airave at the store so all I did was to plug in power, the GPS antenna and an ethernet cable. It did take about 30 minutes to get a good GPS lock and register with the network the first time I turned it on. After that, a power cycle took only about 30 seconds to come back to full operation. Before I powered it on, I walked through the apartment looking at signal strength on the 8830 and got -105 for the best and -110 for the worst. With the Airave running, I got -80 for the best (which is the highest that can be measured anyway) and -87 for the worst. So basically it was a 25db improvement and there was a dramatic improvement in call quality.

As for the data, the rep was correct. I had no problems with browsing and with my BES pushing mail and other sync tasks then immediately making or receiving a call. The data went over the public network and the voice went over the Airave.

A few gotcha's still need to be worked out. Calls originated via the Airave will hand-off to the outside network but not the reverse. No reall biggie. The call doesn't get dropped you just stay connected via the outside network until the call ends. Also, since the Airave actually becomes part of Sprint's CDMA network, neighbors or anyone who walks by will park on it. There's a security feature than can restrict who parks on the device but you have to call Sprint to activate it.

So, I'm going to give it a few more weeks and see how it goes. If it works out, then it's bye-bye to Verizon. Good thing I have someone who'll buy my Verizon 8830. :)

Oh yeah, the switch to Sprint means a cheaper bill (even with the $15 add-on) and GPS capability. As long as I never have to call Customer Service, I'll be fine. :)

likefre 10-04-2007 11:38 AM

Had it for 5 days......:(
While it is an interesting concept, it does not work as implied..
5k square feet?..nooooo home is 3k and I could not get a signal standing about 15 feet from the Airave.
When it woked, it worked great but what is the point of having to stand so close to the unit?
Dropped calls like crazy if I was 10 feet or more from the unit.
(yes I moved the router to 6 different locations).
EVDO does not work over the Airave, if you send or receive a msg, it looks for the EVDO signal to push it. Meaning that I could be right next to the airave, full bars, if an email was sent to my bb, it would drop to 1 bar (normal signal at our location), receive the msg and the a couple of min later pick up airave signal.
We just moved to a new location were Sprint's coverage was almost non-existent so the airave was the "answer to our prayers" as we were happy with sprint's service.
After days of talking with airave's tier 3 tech support, the were able to lower power thus increasing significantly the Airave's signal. We were happy but it only lasted a day. I noticed that the problem was back and called. Tech support told me that they had to undo what they did the day before as the Airaive was producing frequencies that they were not allowed to use eventhough that fixed my problem. So took it back and said bye bye to Sprint.
So, my advice to people looking at the Airave (if you qualify)...BEWARE...not all that is hyped to be unless you want to stand next to the Airave all the time.
HOw does it compare to H@h from T-mobile?
I don't have anything against Sprint, but the 8320 (with the H@H service) totally blows Sprint's Airave..
The blackberry will pick up Wifi signal almost as good as a laptop..probably no quite the same distance but pretty close.
They are totally different concepts...
While the Airave has the advantage of being compatible with every CDMA phone, its signal reach is useless. Also for the Airave to work, it must detect a GPS signal, if it doesn't it won't work. So that pretty much leaves a basement installation out of the question.
No notification on the phone itself if you are within Airave coverage. You would either have to start a call or dial *99 to check. When you start a call, it will beep while using Airave coverage. Other than that,no visual alerts.
On the 8320, the Wifi icon lights up (while within reach ofthe router) plus Edge switches to UMA meaning that your calls are being routed thru your internet connection.
Also let me add that with the H@H service, the phone (using your router's internet connection), is the one that connects to T-mobile's infrastructure while with the Airave, the unit itself has to connect to Sprint's infrastructure and then your phones uses that connection. Plus remember...NO EVDO while using the Airave, if you are getting an EVDO connection, it is only because it is detecting a signal from a tower nearby.
Sorry for the long post but I wanted forum members thinking of going the Airave way to have all the info...

gcpicken 06-21-2008 03:54 PM

Are there any updates on this? My Sprint 8830 is very nice for work and most other places, but my neighborhood is a deadspot. I drop calls on the way into it, and I have to walk outside to make a call. I never had trouble with my Metro phone, and had to get one to be able to call from inside my house. That is just so lame.

juwaack68 09-09-2008 09:45 PM

Just got one of these from work and set it up at home. Will report back in a few days....

TroyDBrown 09-09-2008 09:51 PM

This sounds great. I m let down by the GPS issue. I am guessing this is to stop use out of the country. A simple IP block would do that.

juwaack68 09-09-2008 09:55 PM

What GPS issue? I missed something....

TroyDBrown 09-09-2008 09:58 PM

Using the device in an area that can not get a GPS fix.

juwaack68 09-09-2008 09:59 PM

Ah. Fortunately I can get a GPS fix 'within 7 meters' with Google Maps, sitting on my couch.

John Clark 09-09-2008 10:00 PM

Does the Airave have a GPS in it?

TroyDBrown 09-09-2008 10:07 PM


Originally Posted by John Clark (Post 1094272)
Does the Airave have a GPS in it?

Yes to verify location. They don't want it abused like how you and I "abuse" UMA. ;-)

RemyJ 09-10-2008 12:30 AM

Actually the primary purpose of the GPS is to support E-911 and the strict timing required by CDMA. All CDMA cell sites are dependent on GPS.

BTW, mine's been working perfectly since day one.

juwaack68 09-10-2008 11:34 AM

Have you had any issues with the battery on your device, RemyJ?

My Curve battery was almost dead this morning. I was pretty sure the device had about 25% when I went to bed, but figured I was hallucinating. The my husband told me his Pearl was also drained way down.

We'll have to watch it for a few more days to see if the batteries are getting drained by the Airave (they didn't drain that fast without it!)

RemyJ 09-10-2008 11:45 AM

I've been getting BETTER battery performance due to the increased signal strength. You might want to grab my Signal Location utility from and double check that you're actually parked on the Airave. Do a "show cell site location on map".

The last time my device did that, it was when BBWeather was having problems with and it was retrying continually.

juwaack68 09-10-2008 11:52 AM

I've never had problems with BBWeather and have been using it for quite a while, so I have my doubts that it's that.

I did notice that shortly after we got the device set up, and it was working, my device was bouncing from 1X to 1XEV - but that's pretty normal for my device.

I'll check out the signal utility, but I may go with an easier approach - monitor it for a few more days, unplug the Airave and then monitor it again for a few days. :-)

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