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Sprint CEO Claims Next-Gen Network Will Be #1

Sarah Thomas
5/28/2015

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure made some bold claims about Sprint's network in the coming months at Thursday's Code conference, leaving many to wonder just what Softbank has up its sleeve for its wayward US operator.

Speaking in a interview with Recode editors, Claure -- on the job for the past eight months -- said that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s network would be ranked number one or two in every single market in the next 18 to 24 months, referring to RootMetrics 's rankings, which recently had Sprint passing third place T-Mobile US Inc. for overall network performance. (See Sprint Versus T-Mobile: Which Metrics Matter?)

Claure said that Sprint has been relentlessly focused on improving its network under his tenure, as part of Network Vision, but he hinted a new forthcoming network strategy that would propel it to the top two: "We've figured out a way how we're going to go build the network -- completely different network architecture; completely different way to build the network, and you can expect in the next 18 to 24 months... that our network will be ranked number one or number two in every single market," he said.

The CEO is likely referring to Sprint's "Next-Generation Network" strategy, which he first revealed on the carrier's fourth quarter earnings call earlier this month. He didn't reveal too many details at the time, but said that it is Sprint's long-term strategy to "truly unload the value of its spectrum" through a combination of macro sites and small cells. (See Sprint Maps Out Its Next-Generation Network and Report: Sprint to Add 9,000 New Sites for LTE.)


Sprint will be among the companies presenting at next month's Big Telecom Event in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!


It's unclear whether Next-Generation Network is just a rebranding of Network Vision or a real pivot in strategy, but it is clear that the missive -- and perhaps Claure's confidence -- is coming from its owner SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi -- along with his deep pockets -- is apparently fully on board with its densification plan, and Claure reportedly met with SoftBank leadership in Tokyo just days before the Code conference.

Sprint's obviously planning some big changes with new leadership transitioning in at SoftBank and a new CMO on board at Sprint to communicate the changes, which might also include the end of unlimited data. (See Sprint Appoints Ex-Bell Media Exec as CMO , Sprint Taps Brazilian Mobile Exec to Head Innovation and SoftBank's Son Names Arora New President.)

What's not clear is how much this ace-in-the-hole network is going to cost Sprint or if it'll be able to match, let alone supercede those of Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). But, something's giving Claure some extra confidence, and I don't think the CEO, who has been realistic about Sprint's problems from the start, is making an empty promise. (See Sprint CEO: Price Cuts First, Best Network Next .)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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milan03
milan03
5/31/2015 | 11:10:02 AM
Re: next-gen network techs
@nasimson:

I'm specifically talking about the major LTE areas like Korea, China, Japan. The major hurdles in the U.S. market place like:

- Site acquisition, Juristictional approval, Zoning, Backhaul availability, power, etc

aren't as severe in these Asian markets. This is why cell density isn't an issue in Korea for example. In the U.S. it'll take years from selecting the location, negotiating with the landlord, going through the municipal approval, and that's even before you start dealing with the backhaul providers that are known to be extremely slow.

As for the executive responsibility, in these Asian countries a CEO or a CTO wouldn't last a year if he kept sitting on 120MHz of nationwide undeployed capacity, while the network is conistently performing dead last. Now try 5+ years of that nonsense, while telling people to "just wait", "it's gonna be the best network", "it's right around the corner", we're full steam ahead", etc...
nasimson
nasimson
5/30/2015 | 9:30:16 PM
Re: next-gen network techs
> especially considering much tougher site acquisition permits and
> other jurisdictional hurdles in the U.S. wireless marketplace. In
> Asia it's much, much easier to obtain these, not to mention much
> more responsible executive culture in general.

@milan:

In Asia too site acquisition is not quick or cheap. In some countries tower cos exist. In many others these dont exist. And the network vendor or its contractor has to do a buildout. Working for Telenor that operates in six Asian geographies I can speak with some confidence here.

Can you please explain responsible executive culture that you are referring to?
milan03
milan03
5/28/2015 | 8:46:26 PM
Re: next-gen network techs
2.5GHz spectrum is absolutely perfect for dense urban markets, but you can't execute on 2.5GHz without significantly improving cell density. Sprint's cell site density hasn't been stellar even for 1900MHz band as they've been relying for decades on Verizon's in-market CDMA roaming and avoiding the buildout. Obviously in data centric day and age if you don't have sufficient density, it'll be nothing but a bag of hurt.

That said, it's rediculously tough to build out 20k needed macros or small cell sites in 18 months, especially considering much tougher site acquisition permits and other jurisdictional hurdles in the U.S. wireless marketplace. In Asia it's much, much easier to obtain these, not to mention much more responsible executive culture in general.
sarahthomas1011
sarahthomas1011
5/28/2015 | 1:08:57 PM
next-gen network techs
Sprint does have powerful spectrum holdings that can drastically improve its network when combined. I don't think its strategy needs to differ materially, it just needs to execute on it better and faster. I do wonder if SoftBank has other network optimization strategies to employ as well though. It's been an innovator there.

I also wonder if we'll hear more about small cells from Sprint. They used to talk them up, but have been silent for the past year. I imagine they will be critical to the "Next-Gen Network" as well.
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