Sprint is in trouble and has been for several years. The phone company's lackadaisical attitude towards network upgrades and contentment with remaining the third largest carrier has damaged its number of subscribers greatly. According to CNET, competitors AT&T and Verizon now control about 70 percent of the wireless subscriber market and it seems as though their dominance will only continue in coming years, something that Sprint hopes to change with their ongoing network overhaul. This overhaul has real potential to change the wireless market in the United States, and Sprint seems to be making all of the right moves so far to do so.
In the U.S., there is much less competition than in Europe or other areas, largely due to the prohibitive size. Because of how big our country is it requires a huge amount of resources to have network coverage of the entire country. There are currently four major national carriers in the U.S: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Sprint has been third largest for some time, yet is in danger of dropping down even further, because of their aging and congested network and poor coverage. In the past several years, Sprint has declined to upgrade their network, and had even given up on the 4G WiMax effort they had emphasized so much. Even them making a $15.5 billion bid for the iPhone gained some customers, yet was not enough, as the root of the issue remained the aging technology at the core of their network.
On October 2011, Sprint announced a complete overhaul of their network called Network Vision, which will modernize their network and allow for future upgradeability. Network Vision requires Sprint to update every single one of its towers as well as improve the network that connects the cell towers to the internet. This network upgrade will allow Sprint to once again be competitive in the wireless market and put them in an positive position for the long term. Their newly upgraded network will introduce better wireless speeds, have similar maintenance costs, require less power, as well as having a modular design so they can easily upgrade them if needed.
This new network will also allow Sprint to roll out 4G LTE, which is a huge improvement from the current 3G data and 4G WiMax that is being used. 4G LTE will allow for them to take the load off of their aging 3G network, which will increase speeds dramatically for both the new 4G LTE users, as well as the current 3G users due to less stress on the network.
The Network Vision rollout is well under way, with several markets already being announced, and more being rolled out at an aggressive rate. According to Sprint enthusiast site Sprint 4G Rollout Updates ( S4GRU.com ), Network Vision will be officially launched in Washington D.C and the surrounding areas around October, with the estimated completion beginning around February 2013. However, the results will be seen sooner than that with faster data speeds available from upgraded towers as they are completed. Sprint's overall Network Vision rollout will extend into 2014 and is estimated to cost between $4 and 5 billion, yet over seven years, Sprint says that the benefit will be $10 to 11 billion. Not only will there be slightly reduced operating costs, they will have more options to upgrade their network to new technologies thanks to the design. Additionally, more than 99 percent of Sprint's cell towers will be updated with Network Vision, providing practically nationwide benefits.
Network Vision is an incredible opportunity for Sprint, providing they make it through the next two years intact, they will be in a great position. Additionally, Sprint has almost no debt due in the next two years and are in no danger of defaulting or going bankrupt in the time span of the Network Vision rollout. At the end of Network Vision, they will have a new network, with great speeds, and with that the potential to rise to the level of Verizon and AT&T.
Sam Lewando. More »