Wireless networks are always changing. Providers put up new towers, acquire and trade portions of spectrum, and implement new communications standards. For us end users this means that, by and large, service is always getting better. That’s what makes this next bit of news so interesting, as reports come in that Sprint’s new high-speed Spark service takes a step back in the usability department.
Sprint introduced Spark last fall, with the goal of speeding-up LTE operation by having phones take better advantage of Sprint’s multiple spectrum holdings. In ideal situations, users might hope to pull down speeds as high as 60Mbps, and Sprint said that even higher speeds could be coming in the future. So far, so good, right?
The problem is, as Consumer Reports noticed when testing Spark handsets, that they don’t appear capable of using simultaneous voice and cellular data. Attempting to access services requiring a data connection while you’re on the phone with someone generates a “this operation is not allowed during call” error message.
Before Spark, many Sprint LTE handsets had no problems managing such a feat. And yes, we realize that simultaneous voice and data has long been an issue phones struggled with across many carriers, but what makes this Sprint Spark situation stand out is that it seems like a step in the wrong direction, or at least one that delivered improvements but made significant trade-offs in the process.
We reached out to Sprint for comment on the situation, and here’s what it had to say:
Sprint Spark devices leverage eCSFB technology (enhanced Circuit Switch Fall Back) which enables single radio functionality in the handset. This allows Sprint to leverage the many benefits of Network Vision, including the ability to utilize multiple CDMA and LTE spectrum bands efficiently. Although, simultaneous voice and LTE is not supported on new Sprint Spark devices, it does provide improved coverage, quality of voice and data service, as well as improved battery performance.
So there you have it: Spark has its benefits, but simultaneous voice and data is not among them.