Can Sprint Get Back to Good?


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Commentary and my opinions!

Can Sprint get back to #3? Boy, Sprint keeps telling us how great their network is, then they make announcements that they are going to put the minimal amount of money into the network. Trust me, if you are a Sprint vendor, you feel the pinch. They aren’t just driving the prices down, they just say “no, we really don’t need to expand or upgrade or improve” to most of the vendors out there. That’s OK because apparently they have a $10 Billion bond debt due in a few years. So why is it that all of the other carriers seem to be making money but Sprint can’t seem to do it? I was listening to RCR’s Martha DeGrasse talking to Iain Gillot about the Sprint situation. Sprint is really in trouble. Can Marcelo Claure make the difference? Can Softbank pull them back to #3? Can anyone help Sprint get out of debt? Does anyone know where all the money went?

So Sprint is pulling back the spend, no kidding. Did anyone bid on the NGN offer over a year ago? I worked it and what a waste of time. Holidays and weekends spent to make that company happy and they didn’t do anything really. I know that they are doing a little, very little.

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So let’s look at what they are doing. They are removing the Clearwire Huawei gear and replacing it with 2.5G LTE gear, it’s about time. They are only doing this because they have to. It is part of the budget. The one thing I don’t see from Sprint is anything to do with VoLTE or SDN or anything to really bring the network to a LTE only network. I guess they are really counting on CDMA for voice will through 2020, it’s crazy that they have no money and yet they expect to maintain a legacy network. Way to go Sprint, well thought out. Spend less now so you can maintain legacy discontinued equipment 3 years from now. Good move genius! I guess if you don’t have the money to get new tires for your car, you hope it stays on the road until you have the money. Good luck with that!

So even though Sprint has a smaller workforce that the other guys and they seem to have a heavy management structure, I guess they can turn the ship around. I really hope so because it you look at T-Mobile; they seem to be making all the right moves. They are advancing their network, building out VoLTE, LTE, densifying, everything they need to do to sunset CDMA, saving them more money I the near future, and they have a great system. Verizon, which goes without saying, is not only doing all of this but they are building a network that is 5G capable, densifying, building out VoLTE, improving their services, and making it the shining example. Then you have AT&T who did put a lot of time and money into the network and continues to advance, but they think that they have plenty of coverage for now in most markets. They have been working on different deals but that means that they just haven’t been investing in the network the way I think they should be. Can they get back on track? Who knows, maybe they think their fine. Let Verizon lead the way.

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Let’s play the “What if” game about bankruptcy!

What if Sprint declared bankruptcy? For one, Legere at T-Mobile would have a field day with a string of new commercials! For the industry it would be a major hit. All the stock prices would go down. Softbank might look really bad, but then they could re-organize the debt and manage it better. Would Softbank be able to keep its hold on Sprint? I think so, but they know it would be difficult and it may create more problems that solve them. They are already falling behind the technology race, (VoLTE and SDN) compared to the others who are racing to sunset CDMA. I don’t see them doing this until that $10B in debt comes due around 2020, and it would be a last resort, but it may save them.

Let’s play the “What if” game about a takeover!

We are pretty sure that the FCC and SEC in the USA would not let that happen unless Sprint would go into bankruptcy, but even then it seems more like Sprint mismanaged the money rather that a competition issue, so it may not happen even then. The government would really have to “pity” Sprint to make that happen. So who would take them over? When listening to Iain Gillot with Martha DeGrasse on RCR, it would have to be someone like Vodaphone.    But wait! Softbank already took them over, and look how that’s going! So the takeover already happened, but was it the wrong partner? We all thought that Softbank would put money into Sprint, well, it doesn’t look at way. They are making Sprint think about every dime they spend, something that they should have been doing long before this. Let’s remember that Sprint was already taken over and it doesn’t seem to be pushing them ahead except for the fact they really seem to be making some good financial moves. They are working to get out of debt. So maybe Softbank is making the right moves. I just want them to move ahead with the network, but if you don’t have the money, you start positioning yourself to be more fiscally responsive, which Sprint does appear to be doing right now. Maybe Sprint needs to make these moves to save themselves.

The Network is Falling Behind

Yes, the network is falling behind but Sprint is trying to build the company back up. They are making moves that will help them get the money to do something again. People are looking at Network Vision like it was a failure, but they have a large network built the best way they could at that time. I could go into what they did wrong, but what’s the point. Now they are trying to build around what they have and move ahead. Unfortunately, it will put them behind all the big boys. They don’t seem to care. I think Sprint is so bad off financially that they need to make moves like this. All their previous moves put them here. Do you know that in 2018 they will have a 2015 network? Does that bother anyone? I know you think that the older network would be cheaper to run, but it’s really not, the LTE network is much cheaper to run that a combo LTE and CDMA costs more money to maintain and grow. It’s really better to sunset the older network to save on maintenance costs.

Comparisons:

Hey, we all see T-Mobile moving ahead quickly with LTE, and Verizon is always pushing ahead. AT&T has been spending money on other parts of the business, but they know they will have to keep pushing and all of those carriers see that VoLTE and NFV play an important role in sun setting CDMA. They all know that the sooner CDMA/GSM goes away the less money they have to spend to maintain an older system. They also know that LTE is a common system, soon becoming a commodity. It will be cheaper to build, easier to expand, and OEM interchangeable. The OEMs don’t like that but they understand that its part of progress.

All those companies should have everything in place for 5G. Sprint on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere with advancing the network for 5G, and I think it will hurt them. They think the network is good enough. I get it, financially they are trouble and they want to get back to good. Apparently they feel that to get back to good the network has to stay where it is, so that in 2020 they will have a 2015 network. This shows that the vision for the network is to maintain. I understand they have a small cell plan, and it may take hold in 2017 at the earliest. This will put them behind the rest.

What’s Next?

I hope they get back to good, seriously. Once that happens they can improve their network and become a leader again, but for now they just seem content to be #4. They have to realize that T-Mobile is building out their LTE network to be one of the best, densifying and moving to VoLTE, so they can sunset CDMA and start to decommission the old system. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all want to do this because the savings will be huge! LTE is already a commodity and the OEMs can already work in each other’s networks, so they will continue to drive down the costs of equipment. They created the turf system to drive vendors down, but they also see a decline in quality, (you made your bed, now lie in it).

One thing to think about, by the time Sprint builds out their NGN or small cell deployment or whatever they do, it looks like it will be too late to be cutting edge, in fact, they will deploy so far behind that catch up may not happen. It would be a complete replacement to get back to where the competition is. But hey, who cares, marketing will save them. If you can’t be the best be the cheapest, right, wasn’t that the original plan? By the way, how is that working out?

Listen, I am rooting for Sprint, I hope all the carriers succeed and grow, seriously. Sprint needs to become a major competitor. they won’t do it by sitting still. Standing still means you are falling behind, and that is never good in this industry. You know, they could always sell pagers, maybe that is going to be their niche, pagers, not phones.

Can they do it?

I hope so!

Feedback? Email me, wade4wireless@gmail.com.

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