Sprint: Drama Queen

Sprint named billionaire entrepreneur Marcelo Claure its new CEO, reports the WSJ in a background piece. Marcelo Claure, a 6-foot-6-inch Bolivian billionaire, built a global mobile-phone distributor from scratch.

Claure is in while Sprint’s $32 billion merger plan with T-Mobile is out.

Regulators with the FCC and Department of Justice were apparently not persuaded that more wireless consolidation was a good thing.

Claure’s stature was growing inside Sprint, as concerns hit a tipping point in mid-July, people familiar with the matter said. Claure’s job is to turn around the 38,000 person company that has spent the better part of a decade losing customers and money.

Mr. Son, whose confidence in Mr. Hesse had been waning, spoke to him a number of times about his role at the company over the past several weeks, according to The Journal.

Meanwhile, on a July 30 conference call, Sprint told analysts and investors that its network overhaul was “substantially complete” and that it is testing new price plans in preparation for an aggressive push for customers later this year.

The progress on its network overhaul and a viable CEO candidate gave the board the confidence that the company could stand alone, says the WSJ. The plan now is for Sprint to be a “price leader” later in the year, the Sprint executive said.

Sprint Spark combines Sprint’s 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum to offer devices faster speeds while minimizing tower infrastructure. Sprint is deploying 8T8R antennas, using 8 transmit and 8 receive antennas, that are expected to boost range and speed some 1.5 times in the 2.6 GHz band. Sprint hopes to make coverage similar to its LTE network on their 1.9 GHz PCS band, which is currently limited to 5×5 MHz bandwidth.

Sprint Spark is expected to cover 100 million POPs by year-end. But Sprint Spark coverage is a long way from the 250 million of AT&T and Verizon. Sprint says its LTE is available in 488 cities covering approximately 254 million people (pops), but only in their narrow (5×5 MHz) PCS spectrum slice. Lots of Sprint’s LTE bandwidth is also spoken for by wholesale providers.

Even T-Mobile now covers 230 million POPs with its LTE network. The carrier plans to cover 250 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2014. T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray noted in June that T-Mobile is now offering “Wideband LTE,” with 15×15 MHz service, in 16 U.S. markets.

AT&T Mobility says the company’s LTE network now covers nearly 290 million POPs in more than 500 markets across the country. AT&T bought Leap Wireless (Cricket) for $1.2 billion, largely for their AWS spectrum. Leap’s PCS and AWS spectrum covers approximately 137 million potential customers

Verizon Wireless’ 700 MHz LTE network covers around 306 million POPs. The carrier has also been busy deploying its LTE service on its AWS spectrum to bolster its network capacity. Verizon bought 122 AWS licenses from cable giants for $3.6 billion.

Perhaps Son (and Marcelo Claure) are betting on the miracle of small cells in urban environments. In July 2013, South Korea’s LG U + launched LTE-Advanced service using carrier aggregation of 800 MHz and 2.1 GHz spectrum. Softbank and vendor Huawei have also deployed LTE-A in the 3.5GHz band.

Killing the T-Mobile merger is undoubtedly good news for Dish, which has 55 Mhz of spectrum, mostly in the 2 GHz band, and no tower partner. Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research said a network-sharing deal with Sprint and T-Mobile or an outright acquisition of T-Mobile by Dish now looks more likely than a sale of Dish’s spectrum to a carrier, such as Verizon Wireless.

Of course, there’s the Iliad odessy. French upstart telecommunications company Iliad, which is known as “Free Mobile” in France, has made an offer for T-Mobile US, reports the Wall Street Journal. That bid countered one by Sprint for the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.

Iliad, in a news release, said it offered $15 billion in cash for 56.6% of T-Mobile US at $33 a share. Iliad added that the remaining 43.4% of T-Mobile US would be worth $40.50 a share, based on expected cost savings, giving the deal an overall per-share value of $36.20, or 17% higher than T-Mobile’s closing price Wednesday.

Related Dailywireless articles include; French Operator Iliad Bids for T-Mobile US , Viva la Free Network!, Sprint and T-Mobile: Joint Bidding on 600MHz?, T-Mobile/Sprint Agreement?

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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