Sprint Unveils Magic Box to Boost Cellular Signals in Home, Offices

The shoebox-sized device, which will be free for customers, aims to provide stronger, boosted cellular signals inside buildings.

Sprint Magic Box

Sprint has unveiled a free Magic Box device that boosts the 4G LTE cellular signals customers receive inside homes, offices and other buildings where they receive their Sprint cellular services.

The Magic Box, which is a shoebox-sized, self-configuring small cell that can be placed inside a building near a window, was announced by the company on May 3 as a way for users to boost their indoor cellular signals for improved performance for video streaming as well as internet and apps usage. The Magic Box is essentially a plug-and-play LTE small cell that can increase cellular data coverage and raise download and upload speeds by an average of 200 percent, according to Sprint. The device will allow Sprint to densify its nationwide LTE Plus network to provide better coverage for users.

Adrienne Norton, a Sprint spokeswoman, told eWEEK that the company will provide the Magic Box free to qualified Sprint customers and that distribution of the first 5,000 boxes has already begun. Business customers will be targeted first, she said, with residential customers to follow. No monthly rental or usage fees will be charged for the devices.

Customers can apply to obtain a Magic Box online at a special Sprint web page.

After being placed near a window and plugged into a power outlet, the Magic Box will automatically connect itself to a nearby Sprint cell site and be operational within minutes, according to the company.

The device will boost Sprint signals for customers by providing average coverage of 30,000 square feet indoors, as well as about 328 feet outside buildings, which can benefit customers in adjacent buildings or on nearby streets, the company states. The system uses Sprint's dedicated 2.5GHz spectrum with backhaul provided by Sprint's outdoor macro cell sites to provide improved services deep inside structures.

"Sprint Magic Box is going to quickly transform our network, and it is key to delivering an amazing experience to customers today as we build the kind of dense urban infrastructures needed for 5G," Dr. John Saw, Sprint's CTO, said in a statement. "By leveraging our deep spectrum trove, Sprint has the ability to blanket its network with an all-wireless small cell that delivers this kind of dramatic performance boost with zero backhaul, permitting, and engineering costs."

So far, Magic Box deployment has begun in several cities across the United States, including Denver, San Francisco, Indianapolis, New York, Chicago and Houston.

The development of the Magic Box effort is part of Sprint's ongoing program to improve its network through a densification and optimization strategy around the country.

In 2015, competitor T-Mobile unveiled its own system of 4G LTE CellSpot devices that were aimed at improving the 4G LTE signals T-Mobile users experienced inside buildings, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The 4G LTE CellSpot devices are 4G mini-towers that provide up to 3,000 square feet of LTE coverage inside homes, businesses or other locations when signals from traditional cell towers can be difficult to receive.

The technology built on T-Mobile's Un-carrier 7.0 announcement in September 2014, when it unveiled its WiFi CellSpot router devices for customers so they could use their home or business WiFi networks to make WiFi calls using their T-Mobile accounts. The 4G LTE CellSpot devices are essentially small cells that use the LTE network directly and don't provide WiFi services to users like the WiFi CellSpot devices do.