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.