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Sprint Commits to Tri-Band, HD Voice Phones

Sarah Thomas
11/13/2013

Sprint's still in the early stages of building out its multi-band LTE network, but the Network Vision carrier is committing to including tri-band support in all the handsets it launches in 2014, along with HD voice capabilities.

Speaking at a Wells Fargo & Co. investor conference Wednesday, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) Joe Euteneuer said that all future handsets will have HD voice and will support all its flavors of LTE spectrum, including 1.9 GHz, 800 MHz, and 2.5 GHz. Although, when asked about the iPhone, he admitted he doesn't know whether Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will support tri-band or not. Sprint will launch an initial six to eight tri-band handsets in the fourth quarter. (See Sprint to Offer First 3 Tri-Band LTE Devices and Sprint Delays HD Voice Launch to Q2.)

Sprint has traditionally used Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum solely for offload, but the carrier now sees it as a way to achieve faster speeds through carrier aggregation for its zippier Sprint Spark blended LTE service. Euteneuer said it would also begin boosting capacity through small cells next year, something it hadn't discussed much before SoftBank Corp. acquired the carrier. (See Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE, Sprint Plans to Add 4G LTE Urban Heft in 2014, and Sprint Has Samsung 4G LTE Small Cells: Analyst.)

"As a standalone, Clearwire had no value, but when you bundle it with other things, that's where it has value," he said. This has been something Sprint has talked up since it announced Network Vision, but it hasn't become real for the carrier until now.

Also because of its acquisition of Clearwire, Sprint is feeling confident in its spectrum position, and Euteneuer said it would not be bidding in the January Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction for the 1900 MHz PCS H Block, instead focusing on lower band spectrum.

"We have made the decision not to move forward with the H block given where we are spectrum-wise, given the rules associated with the H block, and given our belief for the need of lower-band spectrum," Euteneuer said.

T-Mobile US Inc. has also bowed out of the auction, which means that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) could have it locked up. (See Dish Spectrum Gets Clearance for Takeoff and Sprint & Dish Slug It Out Over Spectrum.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
11/14/2013 | 12:33:24 PM
Re: iDEN & Churn
I think that's a fair assessment tb100, and Sprint probably shouldn't be surprised that so many hung on until the very last day. They did have a dedicated site for Nextel switchers and tried to prepare them to move, but either they didn't do enough or the incentive wasn't good enough to upgrade. It should've been an opportunity to upgrade these customesr. Instead they lost a lot of them to AT&T, who used the opportunity to make a big deal of P2T.
tb100
tb100
11/14/2013 | 12:28:00 PM
Re: iDEN & Churn
I never understood how Sprint handled the Nextel purchace. I understand that at first they thought they could convert the push-to-talk feature to their other network and it just didn't work. The push-to-talk turns your phone into a walky-talkie with the cell station as a relay point. It was thus very popular in the construction industry. And it was smart when they finally bit the bullet and converted the covetted 800MHz frequency to their LTE network.

But---the loss of customers just astounds me.

There are people who switch networks like they switch fashion. Whatever network has the latest, coolest phone, and they switch. But I would think that people in the construction industry are the kind of customers that would stay with you for life...unless you take their phones away, which is what they did when they shut down the iDEN network. 

Sprint should have held on to these customers. Don't just offer them some insulting discount. They should have said "We are shutting down the network next month. Come down to the Sprint store to pick up your free replacement phone. For your inconvenience you'll get free phone service for a year."

Instead they were losing 500,000 to 800,000 customers a quarter! They are blaming the losses for a 1.3billion dollar loss this year. 
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
11/13/2013 | 12:20:07 PM
iDEN & Churn
CFO Joe also addressed the churn issue, saying he expected to lose a substantial amount of customers from the iDEN shutdown, but he didn't expect them to hold on til the very last day. They saw the effects of that in Q3 and likely will in Q4 too.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
11/13/2013 | 12:17:11 PM
Unlimited
CFO Joe repeated the company line that they're working on keeping unlimited data around as long as possible, and that CEO Dan meets with them once a week to discuss how they can continue to do so. It'll be a real differentiator coupled with these super-fast handsets it's promising.

Any bets on how long until it all turns to tiers?
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