Carrier WiFi

Sprint Tries to Hamstring Verizon/Cable Deals

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) claims it's not out to kill the proposed spectrum deals and service bundling agreements between Verizon Wireless and four major cable operators, but it's worried enough to present the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a laundry list of conditions it wants imposed on them.

In a meeting on June 15 with FCC officials described in this filing, Sprint urged the FCC to consider some specific conditions centering on Wi-Fi networks and cellular backhaul services. Sprint argued that that the conditions, if implemented, will counter the "loss of effective competition" that it believes the deals present to the mobile carrier. Verizon Wireless and cable have, of course, maintained that the deals will increase mobile competition.

By area, here's a summary of the conditions Sprint wants the FCC to impose:

Sprint wants assurances that cable companies that operate Wi-Fi networks won't use discriminatory access or authentication procedures that could prevent Sprint or other wireless carriers from accessing them. Sprint also asks that any Wi-Fi technologies or protocols developed by cable and Verizon Wireless be made available to other wireless carriers "at non discretionary rates and terms."

In an ask with some network neutrality overtones, Sprint also wants the FCC to put in measures that would prevent cable from degrading speeds on their Wi-Fi networks based on a user's choice of wireless carrier. Those concerns come amid a series of Wi-Fi roaming agreements between several top U.S. cable operators that have aims of providing seamless hand-offs between access points. (See Cable Goes Big With Wi-Fi Roaming and Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice .)

On that point, Sprint's afraid that the cable operators and Verizon could erect barriers that would make Sprint customers enter "a complex code" whenever they try to access the one of these access points. Sprint said it had been in talks with "several large cable companies" about allowing its customers to use cable's wireless hot spots, but claims the MSOs broke off those talks late in 2011, before the Verizon Wireless deals came into play. "Those negotiations have not resumed," Sprint said.

Cellular backhaul
Sprint wants the FCC to impose unrestricted access to existing cable facilities for the installation and attachment of microcells, as well as assurances that backhaul services for wireless carriers are provided on a non-discriminatory basis.

Sprint's worried because its Network Vision initiative will be increasingly reliant on microcells to serve high-demand areas, and acknowledges that it will need to lean on telcos such as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and cable to provide additional backhaul capacity. Sprint, which has already awarded pieces of its backhaul business to Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), is afraid that Verizon and its cable cohorts might try to inflate backhaul pricing. (See Sprint to Place Big Backhaul Bet .)

The FCC and U.S. Department of Justice are still reviewing the proposed spectrum deals, though Verizon Wireless and some of its cable partners have already started to bundle services in a few markets. (See Comcast/Verizon Combo Steers Clear of FiOS and TW Cable, VZ Wireless Gang Up on AT&T.)

Sprint's call for conditions also come into view as its relationships with its erstwhile cable partners remain frosty, marked by a recent string of patent-related lawsuits and countersuits. (See Comcast Sues Sprint , Cox Lawsuit Targets Sprint Mobile TV and Sprint VoIP Patent Suit Targets MSOs.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:29:38 PM
re: Sprint Tries to Hamstring Verizon/Cable Deals

The Wi-Fi discussion here is an interesting one. Suddenly Sprint is going to have to compete not only on its mobile broadband network, but on its Wi-Fi access as well. That's going to be awfully hard to do with VZ and the cable companies working together.

Poor Sprint. First it had to fight AT&T/T-Mobile, and now this. Feels a bit like the few leftover moderate conservatives in Congress fighting a war on two fronts. 

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:29:36 PM
re: Sprint Tries to Hamstring Verizon/Cable Deals

Yea, Sprint is now the odd man out. You know times are tough when you have to crawl to the FCC to ask for conditions on your competitors.

I'm not sure I get what the motivation would be for cable and VZ to force Sprint users to enter "a complex code" when accessing cable Wi-Fi. At least with the CableWiFi plan, it seems that MSOs want to extend their services as broadly as possible to their broadband customers, regardless of what mobile or other providers they may use.




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