Fri, Jun. 19, 12:01 PM
- Sprint (S +0.3%) is taking its "cut your bill in half" strategy to prepaid, with a new promotion at its Boost Mobile unit targeting customers of Cricket (NYSE:T) and MetroPCS (TMUS -0.5%).
- The plan is targeting halving customers' bills, for an initial 12 months, across a variety of prepaid plans. Comparing with Cricket's $40/2.5 Gb of high-speed data and MetroPCS's $40/2 Gb, Boost is offering 2.5 Gb for $20/month.
- After 12 months, customers would then migrate to the comparable regular Boost plan (In the case of 2 Gb, for $30/month if signing up for automatic payment).
Thu, Jun. 18, 7:32 PM
- Sprint (NYSE:S) CEO Marcelo Claure had a message for employees today: The network's improving, so don't let it be an excuse for not selling Sprint accounts.
- He was celebrating Sprint's network ascendance from worst to (tied for) first in the company's HQ of Kansas City, according to RootMetrics' carrier test survey. That's the change from just six months ago.
- Claure says he hears the network excuse a lot. "I want to make sure that every single one of us becomes a salesperson, because every single one of us knows someone who is not a Sprint customer," he said.
- A new employee incentive will net $50 for those who bring new customers, as well as $50 for the customer.
- Sprint shares gained 1.1% today and are up 7.2% in the past five days.
Thu, Jun. 18, 4:22 PM
- While AT&T is facing a $100M fine from the FCC for inadequately informing customers about "throttling" -- slowing data transmissions for its unlimited-data customers once they reached a certain level -- Sprint (NYSE:S) voluntarily stopped the practice in accordance with the new net neutrality rules.
- Sprint had announced last year that it would slow down data for those who “consume a disproportionate share of network resources and cause a negative user experience for the rest" -- about 5% of customers.
- Thought the company thinks that policy might still pass muster with the new rules, it's removing all doubt by stopping the practice, and it expects that customers won't see a real difference.
Wed, Jun. 17, 10:36 PM
- Crown Castle (NYSE:CCI) may be the wireless tower operator that benefits most from the growing emphasis on "small cell" deployments, Reinhardt Krause suggests.
- The Houston-based tower operator spent $1B each on small-cell specialists Sunesys and (four years ago) NextG -- and has a key customer, Verizon (NYSE:VZ), pushing into small cells as its 4G LTE network gets stuffed.
- Small cells -- roughly suitcase-sized modules that fit well in outdoor public spaces -- are useful for filling in coverage gaps between full-sized towers and solving urban coverage challenges. But Verizon also may see it as a chance to tap unlicensed spectrum if the government establishes Wi-Fi-like networks.
- The catch is if small cells end up displacing full-size towers, which have nice profit margins. But many see the two approaches as complementary.
- Along with Verizon, Sprint (NYSE:S) is expected to invest in small-cell deployments in 2016. "Small cells will be a central pillar of (4G) network architecture for Verizon and Sprint in the second half of 2015 and especially 2016 and for T-Mobile and AT&T moving forward," writes Macquarie's Kevin Smithen.
- Zayo Group (NYSE:ZAYO) -- a lessor of fiber connections -- is also showing interest in taking part in small cell deployments. Meanwhile, Crown Castle's fiber buys mean it can become more Zayo-like. Small cells accounted for 7% of CCI revenue in 2014, more than at competitors American Tower and SBA Communications.
Fri, Jun. 12, 9:20 PM
- Macquarie Capital thinks SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBY) founder Masayoshi Son is taking a more active role at beleaguered Sprint (NYSE:S), which could help the company get on keel in an industry sea roiled by consolidation tremors.
- "We sense that the (network upgrade) plan has been thoroughly vetted by SoftBank CEO Son-san, who has personally taken a more active day-to-day role in Sprint's network deployment, cost cutting and financing activities," says Kevin Smithen, "which, in our opinion, has resulted in recent progress on churn and improved network performance in several markets."
- Son has stayed out of the spotlight after failing to urge a Sprint/T-Mobile merger. But he's not the only one, Smithen notes, who can aid a turnaround: Nikesh Arora, now Softbank president and Son heir apparent, has revenue and ops experience that can help as Sprint faces a cash problem.
- While a meeting with Sprint execs didn't get into specifics, Smithen writes: "We came away feeling that much has been happening behind the scenes and that Sprint's network plan is near finalization and a rapid, phased deployment over the next 18 to 24 months ... In our opinion, Sprint can complete its network densification at just around $5 billion per year due to very large price reductions from equipment vendors. ... We believe that Sprint would sell 20 to 40MHz of 2.5 GHz (spectrum) if it got a good offer."
- Citigroup's Michael Rollins estimated Sprint would burn free cash of $6.1B in 2015, and yet SoftBank has not quite $100B in debt of its own getting in the way of helping out.
Thu, Jun. 11, 5:18 PM
- With just hours to go before the FCC was to begin enforcement of new net neutrality rules, a federal appeals court has declined to stay them in a blow to telecom firms that hoped to block them while litigation plays out.
- The rules are set to go into effect tomorrow. The plaintiffs argue that they do not object to some of the regulations, like bans on blocking/throttling and paid prioritization, but they are fighting vigorously against Title II classification, which would mean regulating broadband as a tightly controlled telecom service.
- Represented/related companies: VZ, TMUS, S, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC, CTL, FTR, CCOI, DISH, DTV
- Previous coverage on net neutrality
Tue, Jun. 9, 9:33 AM
- With merger talks ongoing between T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) and Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY) -- T-Mobile's controlling shareholder -- is reportedly more interested in merging T-Mobile spectrum (TMUS -1.2%) with Sprint's (S +1.1%) than in the Dish combo, The New York Post reports.
- The stance is centered in the idea of creating a valuable combination that would be more appealing for a sale to Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), sources told the paper. Adding Dish Network to T-Mobile makes more sense in the future, but it would kill the chance of a sale to Comcast on regulatory concerns, the sources paraphrased Höttges as saying.
- There's no word on how he feels about regulatory resistance to combining with Sprint (which reportedly killed such a merger last year).
- He reportedly told investors at last week's RBC Capital Markets road show that the Sprint combination would create huge value in teaming up when the broadcast incentive spectrum auction begins in early 2016. Sprint and Dish Network both have swaths of spectrum that would help T-Mobile fill in gaps.
- Previously: Telecom consolidation game may force Sprint's hand (Jun. 05 2015)
- Previously: Dish Network, T-Mobile up on report of merger talk; Sprint slips (Jun. 04 2015)
Fri, Jun. 5, 8:50 PM
- With T-Mobile and Dish Network talking about a tie-up that many agree makes sense, what about Sprint (S -0.8%), the struggling provider who's set to drop to fourth place in customer base?
- T-Mobile and Dish could take advantage of Dish's large spectrum holdings to amp up the wireless network and add a growth engine to a satellite business in decline. AT&T is already pursuing its own satellite combination, with DirecTV. Verizon's moving into mobile video, but it will need more spectrum sooner or later.
- Sprint, for its part, has large spectrum holdings but has had trouble building it out and holding on to customers. And with a cash burn problem, "it's running out of good options," says industry analyst Craig Moffett.
- Sprint could try again to get T-Mobile for itself. That idea fell apart before on regulatory concerns, but will the climate have changed (or will it if the two wait until after the 2016 presidential election)?
- If T-Mobile goes to Dish or another acquirer -- while Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY -0.2%) invested in Sprint mainly to tie it to T-Mobile -- "Sprint's in a world of hurt," says Moffett.
- All options might be on the table: Aside from going for T-Mobile, there's trying to elbow it aside to partner with Dish itself; joining up with a more merger-shy Comcast; or selling some of its spectrum haul for cash it may soon need.
- Previously: Sprint CEO: We'll have best or second-best network in two years (May. 27 2015)
- Previously: Sprint network: No need to buy spectrum in auction, CFO says (May. 19 2015)
- Previously: Sprint: Amid network investment, cash burn back in focus (May. 06 2015)
Thu, Jun. 4, 10:40 AM
- Dish Network (DISH +5.9%) and T-Mobile (TMUS +4.6%) are on the rise this morning -- and Sprint (NYSE:S) is down 4.2% -- in the wake of reports that Dish and T-Mobile are talking merger.
- It's not the first time the two have been linked by observers due to strategic sense: T-Mobile needs spectrum and Dish Network has it, and Dish needs growth and broadband service that T-Mobile could provide as AT&T and DirecTV near the closing of their merger. (Though the broadband isn't a perfect fit.)
- T-Mobile has been amassing wireless spectrum, and while Dish's Charlie Ergen has been circumspect as recently as this week about what the company would do with it, one thing he's made clear is that the company didn't plan to start a wireless network from scratch.
- A deal may take some time in coming, in part because of its size -- both companies have $30B-plus market caps -- and the fact that the FCC prohibits strategic talks during spectrum auctions, leaving a window before the broadcast incentive auction for discussions.
- Sprint, meanwhile, is trading down on fears that it could be left out in the cold, having a potential merger with T-Mobile dematerialize last year, and subscriber momentum that is likely to see it passed by T-Mo to fall to the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., with a cash burn problem to boot.
Thu, Jun. 4, 9:14 AM
Tue, Jun. 2, 11:16 PM
- Sprint (NYSE:S) is working through Apple's approval process for a "Cut Your Bill In Half" iOS app, to build on its customer-seeking marketing promotion launched last year.
- Sources tell Light Reading that the carrier is hoping that competitors will use the app on their iPads or iPhones to download their bills from AT&T or Verizon (and soon T-Mobile), and get the best offer from Sprint on how to "halve" it.
- An e-commerce back end will let those people make a purchase decision directly via the app if they choose. Alternately, they could analyze the plans and still head into the store, where upsell opportunities abound (or take advantage of Sprint's aggressive "Direct 2 You" house-call service where available).
- Shares in Sprint are up 13% YTD, but down 50% from a year ago.
- Previously: Sprint sheds money, phone customers, but holds No. 3 spot (May. 05 2015)
Tue, Jun. 2, 6:46 PM
- Mogul John Malone floated an interesting idea today: Forget Sprint and T-Mobile -- the wireless industry could get its third major alternative to Verizon and AT&T (NYSE:T) with the merger of Charter Communications (CHTR -1.6%) and Time Warner Cable (TWC -0.9%).
- Malone was speaking at his various Liberty companies' annual meetings and noted that in 2012, the cable consortium SpectrumCo got an option to participate in a wireless MVNO service with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) after the wireless firm bought $3.9B in frequencies.
- Charter wasn't in SpectrumCo then, but merger partners TWC and Bright House are. “The concept that Comcast, a greatly enlarged Charter and Cox could together offer a WiFi-optimized connectivity service with a default to a Verizon MVNO is an interesting concept," Malone said.
- He thinks "there's very little dirty underwear" left to be found in a regulatory review of Charter-TWC after the past year's scrutiny.
- Also of interest regarding Charter capex and the dividend: “Everybody's going to say, ‘Oh he’s spending too much capital,’ but I think the end result with be worth it ... To a large degree we’re betting on Tom Rutledge and his team to wake up a sleepy cable company that was treading water in all honesty for a while and trying to satisfy shareholder pressures with buybacks and dividends as opposed to putting the money into having a competitive service offering.”
- Malone company shares today: LMCA -0.1%; LMCB flat; LMCK flat; LTRPA -0.9%; LTRPB +2.2%; QVCA +0.8%; LBRDA +0.1%; OTCQB:LBRDB flat; LBRDK -0.1%.
Thu, May 28, 3:50 PM
- The FCC is close to rejecting T-Mobile's (TMUS -0.9%) push for more spectrum set-asides in next year's government auction -- expected to be the biggest yet -- and siding with market leaders AT&T (T -0.5%) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Reuters reports.
- The agency already has some set-aside planned, but T-Mobile has been aggressively lobbying for more (40 MHz of an expected 70-80 MHz reserved for smaller carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint (S -1.6%), rather than 30 MHz).
- Sources tell Reuters the panel's thinking is that an adequate amount is being set aside, and that frequent swing vote Jessica Rosenworcel looks disinclined to rethink the current plan.
- Previously: Analyst: Risky to bend auction rules too much for Sprint, T-Mobile (May. 14 2015)
- Previously: T-Mobile, Sprint gambling on increasing spectrum set-aside (Apr. 09 2015)
Wed, May 27, 11:26 PM
- Speaking at Code Conference, Sprint (NYSE:S) CEO Marcelo Claure had a bold prediction: The carrier will have the best or second-best network in the U.S. in quality terms within the next two years.
- It's an extension of Sprint's recent investments, he said, into a network that has generally lagged in comparisons with its "Big Four" U.S. competitors, particularly on speed.
- Asset investments like network improvement come with heavy cash spending, though, and Sprint will burn billions of dollars in free cash flow this year. Citigroup's Michael Rollins thinks Sprint will run out of money by the 2016 broadcast incentive spectrum auction
- Claure's comments come, however, after recent Tokyo meetings with his bosses at Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY), suggesting that they'll be behind a quality push.
- Previously: Sprint: Amid network investment, cash burn back in focus (May. 06 2015)
- Previously: Verizon, AT&T top mobile networks, but Sprint and T-Mobile compete in city (Feb. 10 2015)
Tue, May 19, 7:35 PM
- A judge says he won't approve a $50M Sprint (NYSE:S) settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over "cramming" unless he gets more details from both sides showing it's a fair deal.
- District Judge William Pauley didn't say the settlement was unfair, but said the filings were lacking information he needed to determine whether to approve.
- The $50M deal was part of a larger arrangement where Sprint and Verizon were to pay $158M total to customers and federal and state governments to settle charges that they'd unfairly billed consumers with unauthorized fees.
- AT&T and T-Mobile paid $105M and $90M respectively last year in similar investigations.
Tue, May 19, 12:01 PM
- Speaking at the J.P. Morgan conference this morning, Sprint (S -1.1%) CFO Joe Euteneuer said the company's interested in next year's broadcast incentive wireless spectrum auction -- but it doesn't necessarily need to take part.
- That wouldn't have been the case two years, ago, he says, but the company's seeing improvements through its LTE deployments in 800 MHz and 2.5 GHz. By year's end, he says, Sprint expects the 800 MHz network to be largely built out.
- Also, taking advantage of customers' Wi-Fi connections via Wi-Fi calling will augment capacity, he says. Sprint has more than 25 smartphones that allow such calling.
- Meanwhile, he says that the co-branded Sprint-RadioShack stores will be fully stocked and staffed by mid-June -- a quick move since the stores mainly need just the new exterior signage. CEO Marcelo Claure has said that retail channel expansion is important to Sprint's recovery.
- Sprint had previously said the ramp-up would mean 3,500 new jobs to fill the retail presence.
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