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Sprint Maps Out Its Next-Generation Network

Sarah Thomas
5/5/2015
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Sprint's network vision has morphed into what the carrier is now calling "Sprint Next-Generation Network," a massive densification project involving a combination of macro site and small cells.

Speaking on the carrier's fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure described Next-Generation Network as Sprint's long-term strategy to "truly unload the value of its spectrum." The carrier is currently in the "absolute final stage" of choosing its vendors, figuring out the right combination of macro sites and small cell sites and deciding where to start deployments, Claure said. (See Report: Sprint to Add 9,000 New Sites for LTE.)

"When you massively densify any network, the result that you get when you have so much spectrum is spectacular," Claure said. He described it as a longer-term strategy for Sprint, but said the carrier has started in some places where its network is now better than AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s LTE network. (See Verizon Still Best Network, RootMetrics Finds.)

Claure didn't delve into a budget for Next-Generation Network or how it's different from Network Vision, Spark or any previous network improvement plan from the carrier, but he did say that SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son is fully on board with this densification plan. (See SoftBank Man Joins Sprint as Technical COO and Sprint Sparks to Reduce Churn, Save Unlimited.)

Sprint is also eager to participate in the 600MHz auction, which he called a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire low-band spectrum," but Claure said that Sprint has to make sure the rules are fair to smaller carriers. (See T-Mobile Boss Asks Consumers to Pressure FCC on Low-Band.)

Sprint's LTE coverage now reaches nearly 280 million people, or 87% of the US population. This quarter it focused on building out LTE on its 800MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum. (See Sprint Versus T-Mobile: Which Metrics Matter?)


Want to know more about the wireless market? This will be just one of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!


Sprint's fourth-quarter earnings, reported this morning, were a mixed bag. While it managed to fend off T-Mobile US Inc. for its third-place ranking by adding 1.2 million -- mostly prepaid and tablet -- additions, it still lost 201,000 postpaid phone customers. This was less than AT&T, which lost 291,000 postpaid customers, but more than Verizon Wireless 's 138,000. Only T-Mobile managed to add postpaid phone customers in its previous quarter, reporting additions of 991,000. (See T-Mobile Beats Sprint on Subs, Eyes Verizon on Network, AT&T CFO Shrugs Off Google Fi as Limited and Verizon Focuses on Cashing In on LTE.)

Claure said the biggest disappointment of the quarter was Sprint's postpaid churn at 1.84%, down from 2.3% the previous quarter. Although it was its best sequential churn improvement in a long time, he said Sprint must reduce it further by "fundamentally transforming the customer experience." (See Sprint Feels the Churn Burn Before Spark.)

Sprint lost $224 million, or 6 cents per share, on revenue of $8.3 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter. That is up from a loss of $151 million, or 4 cents per share, on revenue of $8.9 billion a year ago. (See Sprint Loses $224M in Q4.)

Sprint was trading up slightly, .78%, or .04 points, to $5.19 Tuesday after its earnings call, even though its fourth-quarter earnings missed analyst estimates of a loss of 4 cents per share.

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

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sarahthomas1011
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sarahthomas1011,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2015 | 3:03:41 PM
Re: Sprint marketing
Also, I think this new name and/or network strategy is the first to come top-down from Softbank, since Claure mentioned that it has the full support of Son and Sprint's new technical COO from Softbank...
sarahthomas1011
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sarahthomas1011,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2015 | 3:01:58 PM
Re: Sprint marketing
It is unclear what this means for Spark or Network Vision, although I think they are all one-in-the-same, more or less. My guess is that Next-Generation Network becomes Sprint next marketing tagline, more than anything. Maybe Spark wasn't resonating with consumers?
cnwedit
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cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2015 | 1:44:17 PM
Re: Sprint marketing
So what happens to Spark - is it permanently doused?
bosco_pcs
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bosco_pcs,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2015 | 1:36:25 PM
Re: Sprint marketing
So what happened to vision? Or is this just a rebranding? Granted that I am still using an antiquated 4S but in a major city not far from an Apple Store, Sprint is not showing me a lot of confidence by giving an Extended 1x connectivity. Now that I have sold my $S stock, I wonder if I have any reason to stay with it or believe its services 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2015 | 12:02:47 PM
Re: Sprint marketing
Sprint could probably get Crispin Glover to reprise his, "I'm your density" line from Back to the Future. That would spark some attention.
sarahthomas1011
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sarahthomas1011,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2015 | 11:58:30 AM
Re: Sprint marketing
At least it's more straightforward than a lot of the other names out there, including Spark.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2015 | 11:53:57 AM
Re: Sprint marketing
This isn't the most original name, is it.
sarahthomas1011
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sarahthomas1011,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2015 | 10:56:55 AM
Sprint marketing
Claure also acknowledged that Sprint hasn't been talking much about its network in recent ads. It's focusing on cost instead for obvious reasons, but plans to talk up its network more going forward. I bet we'll see new Next-Generation Network ads soon. Wonder if that will be confusing to consumers or if they haven't been paying attention to all the Network Vision, Spark, etc monikers so far anyway.
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