FierceWireless got the lowdown on the new Airvana-built Airave femtocell that Sprint is shipping, and it turns out there's a good reason why stores we called hadn't heard of it: the carrier's only shipping it to people who pass the test. What test, you ask? Well, Sprint is saying that "each customer situation is reviewed independently to determine whether the customer would qualify and benefit from Airave use," and if you qualify, you get the EV-DO-capable Airave gratis -- with the catch that you'll be charged a non-return fee if you walk away from Sprint and don't send it back. From our perspective, we don't see a good reason why these wouldn't end up replacing the 1xRTT-only Samsungs that stores are still stocking, but at this point, it's Sprint's call when or if that's going to happen.

Update: We've been tipped with information that the Airaves are being provided to customers without a spending limit who are considered "mid" value or better; they're being offered via direct ship only and won't be offered in stores.

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Sprint's new Airave shipping to customers who 'qualify'