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Sprint Airave

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

My office at work is on the ground floor in the center of the building where Sprint cell phone service is usually just a figment of my imagination. I complained about this to our Sprint rep since my personal Verizon phone usually has 5 bars in my office. He said they have some device you can plug into your network that acts like a small cell tower for up to 3 connections and he was going to try to get me one for free. Sure enough a couple months later a mystery package arrived for me at work, it was like Christmas. Inside was a new Sprint Airave.

sprint airaveI immediately took it out of the box and plugged it in. When it failed to instantly work I dug up the manual from the box which said it could take up to an hour to start working. Three hours later it still wasn't working. I did some research and found that these things require a GPS signal to function. It needs to be able to inform Sprint of its exact location for emergencies like 911 calls, which makes perfect sense. What doesn't make any sense at all is the logic that if you need one of these things because you can't get any cell service, what are the odds you're going to be able to see a GPS signal? Sure enough being in the center of the bottom floor of the building it couldn't get a signal. I called Sprint to see what they could do and was told to "move it next to a window." I tried to stay calm and explain that I'm in the center of the building where there are no windows. I was told there was nothing they could do. I asked if they could manually enter the location on my account but they said no. I did move the Airave to a location next to a window (useless to me, but just to see if it worked) and it still wouldn't work even when the GPS light confirmed it had a signal.

sprint airave

I went home that day and read through all the documentation and found a note that said it should be activated before it's mailed out but if not call and have a support guy activate it. I called and asked if the device was activated and they said it was, so then they started asking me questions to see if they could figure out the problem. She asked me how it was connected to the network and sounded confused when I said it was connected to a switch. "What do you mean a switch, what kind of switch?" That question right there confirmed the "support" person on the phone had no idea what they were talking about. She actually told me I need to plug the internet directly into the device. I told her this device was in a school on a network with 300 computers and over 20 servers and I'm supposed to unplug all of them from the internet for up to an hour just to test this stupid thing? She said yes, I hung up. Apparently she's never heard of a network bigger than a couple desktops plugged into some little Linksys router...

The next day I plugged it back in near a window and within 15 minutes it was working! I have a feeling it wasn't activated when it was sent to me and when I called to ask if it was, they just did it without telling me. Once it was working I started on the GPS problem. One of the accessories they include in the box was a 20-or-so foot extension cable for the GPS receiver. I ended up snaking this cable up next to a drain pipe through the concrete decking to the floor above me and then across that drop-ceiling to an open area.

It took way too much effort to get this working, but finally it is working fine in my office. The only other problem I had was when our internet connections were maxed out calls would break up. I just had to change my traffic shaping rules a little to give this thing priority.

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