SAN ANTONIO -- CCA Global Expo -- Dish Network, the thorn in SoftBank's side when it was trying to acquire Sprint, could now be the carrier's biggest ally, according to Sprint's new chairman. (See Dish Throws in the Towel on Sprint Buy.)
Addressing reporters after his keynote address to the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) crowd here on Thursday morning, SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son said that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) could be Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s biggest ally in the carrier's fight against the duopoly of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless .
"I'd like to partner with Dish in many possible ways," he told reporters. "We are specifically discussing all kinds of alliances and starting a test of technology. They can be our great ally."
Sprint and Dish are already working together on a fixed wireless broadband trial in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Son says it's achieving speeds of up to 200 Mbit/s. He said the pair are doing some testing, but they're also looking at a technology alliance that combines Dish's satellite business with Sprint's LTE network. (See Dish Taps Sprint for 4G Trial in Texas.)
Partnerships like this, and the one it has forged with the CCA's 100 rural carriers, are necessary to stand up to the big two. That was the message of Son's keynote address, but his time chatting with reporters after was spent defending why a merger with a "not specifically named carrier" (aka T-Mobile US Inc. ) was necessary to turn a "pseudo fight" into a "real fight." (See Sprint Joins Forces With Rural America on LTE and Report: SoftBank Preps $19B Bid for T-Mobile.)
"We need even deeper scale to fight back," Son said. "Otherwise, if you are cornered and fighting along by yourself, it's not enough power to fight back. In order to fight back, we cannot be status quo. We have to change the situation, so it's not really four players becoming three. It's two players dominating the market, and we have to fight back."
He pointed to a GSM Association (GSMA) statistic that AT&T and Verizon had a combined 56% share of the US postpaid mobile market five years ago, a number that has since grown to 73% and will continue to grow if unchecked.
When asked if he's making progress in Washington DC in convincing regulators the merger is good for competition, he quipped, "you have a better understanding," but noted that his goal is to continue to increase understanding. It may seem like basic math: four carriers minus one equals three, but Son said it's not a simple number four. It's an uneven fight; heavyweights versus weaklings. Even coupling Sprint with 100 carriers, as its new Data Roaming Hub does, isn't enough, Son claimed.
"In order to have a sustainable long-term fight, we need scale and efficiency," he said. "Sprint will survive. Survival is not the issue. Can anyone other than those big two have a real fighting situation? Without size it's not a real fight."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading