Will Merger Offers Slow Sprint's 4G Rollout?

The one big problem for Sprint Nextel Inc. in deliberating competing bids from Dish Networks LLC and SoftBank Mobile is that the operator's immediate need is for more cash to speed up its 4G LTE rollout. Sprint lags its bigger rivals in its 4G LTE deployment, with 88 markets live and a goal of covering 200 million people in the U.S. with LTE by the end of the year. Sprint had originally aimed for 250 million people covered by the end of 2013 but fell behind, as CEO Dan Hesse admitted in February. Meanwhile, Sprint reiterated Monday that it is considering the bid from Dish and has started a committee to look into it and see if it is superior to Softbank's offer. It may seem simplistic, but from a certain standpoint, the superior offer is the one that will bring the most cash to pump into Sprint's network deployment the most quickly -- although I doubt shareholders feel that way. Sprint knows that it must keep its foot on the gas with its Network Vision upgrades for better 3G and 4G, not simply because competitors are offering faster downloads across more of the country, but because of the additional services that are slowly being launched because of the additional bandwidth. That includes services like Verizon's HomeFusion mobile broadband. Because Sprint is moving to LTE and no longer selling WiMAX devices, it can't offer a similar service yet. The differences will get starker if Sprint doesn't keep pace with Network Vision or even speed up the deployment. Carriers are all eyeing mobile video, for instance, as a potential revenue driver, and Sprint needs a nationwide network that can support that. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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