Sprint today said it will announce 4G network plans this fall, but the company’s efforts may not be enough to deter consumers from signing on with rivals.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based company’s CEO Dan Hesse promised to unveil his company’s 4G plans in several months, telling reporters at Sprint headquarters, “All your questions will be answered then.”
Hesse’s announcement comes as Sprint manages deteriorating relations with Clearwire, its current 4G provider, and looks elsewhere for a network supplier. Clearwire’s financial troubles and slower speeds have slowed Sprint’s 4G effort, and the network hasn’t added any more cities to its network in several months.
Meanwhile, competitors like Verizon and AT&T add more cities to their 4G networks as Sprint stalls. Sprint is already in third place out of the top four carriers, and will fall much further back if the pending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile goes through. Even though it managed to pull up its first quarter earnings, Sprint is still losing customers to other carriers with popular handsets like the iPhone, and the company is strategizing to fight the merger as well.
Rather than watching its network slow to a crawl, Sprint is reportedly in talks with 4G LTE company LightSquared to begin a partnership soon. The estimated $20 billion joint venture is expected to be formally announced later this month.
But even if the LightSquared partnership goes through, Sprint may still have difficulty attracting customers to its fold. It will be the only carrier without the iPhone if the FCC approves the AT&T merger, giving it a disadvantage in the eyes of consumers eager for the popular Apple device.
Sprint is also moving to the lower-end of the handset market as Verizon and AT&T compete for the top spot. Cheaper devices may mean fewer profits for the company, which changed its unlimited data fees in January to keep up with the competition.
Sprint’s unlimited data plans may be a draw, and it remains the only network to offer such a service after Verizon and AT&T recently made the switch to tiered plans. But Hesse won’t guarantee Sprint’s offer will last forever.
“If I have an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the entire New England Patriots football team shows up for dinner, it’s going to run me out of business,” Hesse said last September.
With Hesse putting most of his energy into fighting the merger, and Sprint’s 4G partner Clearwire struggling, Sprint may need more than LightSquared to save it from a slow fall.