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Magic Box is Actually Slowing Down Download Speeds

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Journeyman

Magic Box is Actually Slowing Down Download Speeds

We’ve been having problems with network speeds for several months now. Thought it had to do with maybe an overload as there are so many now working from remote locations. Figured Sprint and the others would adjust to the “New Normal” and things would improve. Didn’t happen. In fact, about three weeks ago things got decidedly worse. Secure sites like Banks and Credit Card Companies stopped letting me sign in. I have to tether to my phone and use Cellular Data to communicate with them. Hard on limits and phone battery.

Here is where we stand right now.

Without the Magic Box powered on, our phones and mobil hotspot (Franklin 910a, which we took to local store and it checked out just fine) show only one or two bars of signal strength with downloads speeds averaging somewhere around 45 Mbps.

Plugging in the device gives us a full four bars but the download speeds fall off the proverbial cliff. 

Laptop runs anywhere from a high of 11.23 Mbps and a low of 0.62 Mbps, averaging out after several tries at 4.2 Mbps.

The phone drops to an average of 0.24 Mbps.

Have reset the device as instructed, but nothing changes.

When looking through the men on the screen, I see a drop-down in the Network Settings with choice of either LTE Backhaul or WiFi Backhaul.

With LTE selected, everything goes just fine. With WiFi chosen, the setup never seems to quit. 

Any thoughts? 

12 REPLIES 12
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Journeyman

So a few things about Magic Box. If your signal strength / quality for LTE isn't great already at your location, the Magic Box is not going to miraculously make that signal / quality better. It is basically a small cell repeater that will extend signal and boost that signal indoors. It's also technically only for the data side (and I realize thats all you're concerned about here, but there are a lot of people out there who expect them to boost voice/text too ... and they really don't do that unless you're using the VoLTE or wifi calling features). 

 

The real benefit from Magic Box, and this seems to be an issue with mine as well, is the ability to connect it to your Wifi for backhaul. If this works as designed, it has the potential to really boost the LTE data side in areas with otherwise "just ok" signal. Mine is very picky about what wifi network it will connect to and not connect to. At home, it has no issues ... connects to LTE, connects to my wifi ... it takes a little while to complete setup, but it connects. At another location I've tried it, not at home, it connects to LTE but the fully functional wifi network there, it will churn and churn and eventually result in not connecting to it for wifi backhaul. Other devices have no trouble at all. 

 

I say all that not because I necessarily have an answer, but rather, I do think there are some glitches with the Magic Box. I think there is a newer model than I have out now, but they really don't tend to be in a hurry to upgrade them. I can hazard a guess that with the changes they have been making to phones to get them to connect to T-Mobile towers, it may have some adverse effects on Magic Box too -- though I have no way of knowing that to be true. There is little troubleshooting / detailed information available with Magic Box too ... it's either on/off and either set up for LTE backhaul or Wifi backhaul. That's it. We really don't get a lot to work with in trying to figure out where the problem lies. 

 

Have you experienced significant changes to your regular Sprint signal or data speeds on your phones? I posted a comparison on another topic of my phone's data service on T-mobile towers vs. Sprint towers at my home, where I've had great Sprint service ... and it's not good. On T-mobile it is significantly worse signal, speed and overall function. I can't help but think this would impact Magic Box too if this is similar in your area. But I don't know whether they have forced Magic Boxes over to T-Mobile towers yet or not. 

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**Update** I just checked my signal via my Magic Box and it does, in fact, seem to be still connecting via Sprint towers because while my data speedtest came back lower than just connecting to the Sprint towers outright ... It was higher than connecting to the T-Mobile tower. But that's with LTE Backhaul, which I think you have no troubles with, right?

 

My question for Sprint is whether or not there is an update to Magic Box to address the wifi backhaul instability. It seems the wifi backhaul is very finicky. 

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First, from what I understand from the local Sprint and T-Mobile people, they are different systems. Sprint devices will not work on T-Mobile and vice versa. It will take a long time to integrate the systems, if ever.

That was one of the big criticisms by those against the merger.

Secondly, before we got the Box two years ago, our LTE signal was two bars on a good day. From the very first day that went to four and has stayed there ever since.

I have also been told that the magic box is not so much a repeater as a converter. It actually changes the frequency of the signal from one Sprint has a lot of capacity to one that travels through obstacles better.

Main thing is, it worked much better until recently. We have spent hours with Sprint “Customer Service” and made a couple of trips to the nearest store. 20 miles each way. Last visit to store we were told that “maybe” they were working on the towers in our area, but they couldn’t say for sure.

Wife works from home occasionally and we need something with a little more speed and more dependability.

Getting ready to find another provider.

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Hi, I'm sending a private message for more info. 

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Most devices absolutely can work on both networks. While the networks use different bands of frequencies, most modern/current devices can work on all of them. Magic Box itself could be an exception to that because it is a very specific purpose, unlike phones and hotspots designed to be able to roam across networks natively. 

We're both kind of saying the same thing with respect to Magic Box. Magic Box creates a mini cell tower within your home / office using band 41, which is higher than most cellular bands and actually is not very good at penetrating buildings and obstructions, but that is not a problem when its already inside your walls of your home or office. Sprint has used band 41 for WiMax (when they first rolled out 4G with Vision) and then when the technology provider of that equipment essentially went out of business, Sprint was forced to abandon it and begin building out LTE and now 5G using the same frequency band 41. Sprint also uses bands 26 and 25 for LTE, which are usually what you connect to from the main towers unless you are close to one and likely the ones you are referring to with more capacity. It's a bit like a wifi extender you might use to extend your wifi network --- but it requires a decent signal from the Sprint tower to work. That's where the Wifi backhaul is supposed to come in ... it's supposed to help offset mediocre LTE from the Sprint towers. But as you and I both have found out, it's very iffy on whether it will actually connect to wifi to run that backhaul. 🤔


T-Mobile, on the other hand, uses bands 2, 4, and 12 primarily. Band 5 is limited use (and actually what Verizon and AT&T use) and newer additions are band 66 and 71. They are absolutely in the process of moving Sprint devices over to T-Mobile as there are a lot of people having issues (see all the threads here on the topic - haha). In my area, my two S10s on my account are automatically connecting to T-Mobile and ignoring the better Sprint towers I have nearby. Very frustrating. I, too, work from home (in this "new normal") and often use my hotspot which is where I first noticed a drop in data speeds. I have home internet / wifi, but with kids virtual learning and wife and I both working ... I try to spread out our usage during peak bandwidth instances to keep everyone connected effectively. Hard to do with T-Mobile towers taking priority before they are ready. 🙄

 

I really hope they figure it out and soon. I suspect many are considering other carriers as a result of this and it shouldn't be that way. The merger should be largely invisible (with a few expected hiccups) to us, but this has proven anything but invisible. It's very visible ... 

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Hey, i'd like to look into this for you, however, I'd need some more info. I'll send you a PM. 

S.R
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Wife spent all last evening "chatting" to three different people at Sprint. She has a lot more patience than I.

Personally, I have given up at this point.

Been looking at other providers and equipment. Maybe someone else has a tower closer than 3.5 miles. That would probably help.

Wish you Good Luck

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I get what your saying, I really do. We don't want to see you go due to this. Let's work it out, all you have to do is give me the nearest cross streets and ZIP code and I can check, you can even DM me it if you want.

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The lack of information supplied for the Magic Box we have is most frustrating. The Install and Configure document doesn't address WiFi Backhaul at all. Plug and Play is about it. Only when reading the Getting Started Guide, aka The Quick Start Guide, is there any mention of WiFi. But it does not say what to do if the Manage WiFi button is greyed out.

It seems that operation is limited to either LTE or WiFi Backhaul, can't have both. Do you know if that is the way it is supposed to be? I have yet to find any answer on Sprint's documentation.

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I agree wholeheartedly. The information on how to set it up is very minimal and they direct you to the Sprint Network Tool app, but that relies entirely on you having decent LTE signal to begin with ... Which kind of defeats the purpose of the Wifi backhaul setup. 

 

I get the impression you have to have LTE whether wifi backhaul is being used or not ... But you're right, from what I understand from the instructions, it is either / or. Even though when wifi backhaul is connected, my experience has been that LTE is also connected when I've successfully got it to work at all. 

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Interesting. Different experience here. When activated, either straight from the box letting it set unpowered overnight, or doing a factory reset, the LTE Backhaul is configured and activated in five steps I believe. Only LTE is displayed on the screen. Selecting menu and network settings will bring up a screen showing LTE information, I believe it was. Address, connection status and quality, along with a drop down that lets one choose the "Preferred Connection", either LTE or WiFi Backhaul. There is a "Manage WiFi" button at the bottom, but it is greyed out. If the LTE is set up and connected, selecting WiFi seems to turn it of as after the anywhere from one to 20 hours to configure the WiFi Backhaul, (if it completes the task at all) the LTE Logo is no longer shown on main screen. It has been replaced by the "Wifi". At this time, our phones and hotspot will show 4 bars of signal strength, but download speeds will top out about 17 Mbps. Most of the time it will be well below that and often in the single digits. Pulling up the home screen shows WiFi connected and LTE not. Unplug it and give it a few minutes for everything to spin down and discharge, Mbps will shoot up into the high teens or low 20's. Can even see mid 40's standing on one leg, facing the tower to the east, one arm held high in the air while squawking like a chicken. Luckily we have no neighbors close by. Roosters are always pissed though, being constantly on alert.

If instead of unplugging it you select LTE as the "Preferred Connection", the reset can take a mere 30 minutes or it can get caught in an endless loop of getting 25% through the process, shutting itself off and starting over.

I let that process run all day. Never completed. Disconnect and reconnect power. Another crap shoot. I am beginning to wonder if T-Mobile wants us "old-timers" with the least profitable plans to go away.

The wife has Sprint supposedly sending a Pebble in the near future. If that doesn't work they have promised to send another Magic Box, Silver I think. 

At this point I am pretty tired of the whole thing. The problems started in late April or early May with an email telling us to "Reset" the device. Never got the performance back to where it had been. Then 3 or 4 weeks ago it really went in the crapper. 

Thank you much for all your time invaluable and input.

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