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Sprint Needs More Fighting Spirit

By Jeff Kagan E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Oct 11, 2012 5:00 AM PT

What's next for Sprint Nextel? It has been pondering its future for years and that is its problem. It doesn't seem to realize it has to take the next step and act. Pondering is good. You want to make sure you don't make mistakes. However acting is the next step to realize your dreams, and Sprint doesn't act. It appears that is one of its big problems.

Sprint Needs More Fighting Spirit

My Pick of the Week is Advanced Frequency Engineering, which put out a very interesting report earlier this week that seems to really hurt Sprint's LTE claims.

Tough Love

Don't get me wrong. I like Sprint. I like the management, the workers and the technology. Sprint could be a great company. So why isn't it?

The wireless space is very successful. Just look at both AT&T and Verizon. However Sprint is not firing on all cylinders. It ponders, yet it doesn't act. It is not the only company that is missing in wireless. Look at T-Mobile and many others as well. However, Sprint is No. 3, and should be doing very well.

It's like a hunter with the animal in its scope -- yet it never pulls the trigger. If that's what it wants, then fine, but Sprint should be a photographer, not a hunter. However, as long as it is a wireless company, it must do what it takes to be successful as a wireless company. Period.

Is it the fault of the CEO? Dan Hesse was brought in to rebuild Sprint after it fell off the tracks years ago. Fortunately, he did a great job of stabilizing Sprint. Unfortunately, it's at a very low level and it just cannot seem to grow.

This reminds me of Qwest years ago. It was crashing and burning until it brought in Richard Notebaert as CEO. He stopped the drop and saved the company -- however, he was unable to get it growing once again.

Is it the fault of the board of directors? Every time Hesse brings a deal to the board, nothing happens. This has been a Sprint board problem for much too long. So it goofed with Nextel. Big deal. Move on.

So why does Sprint not act and build? That is the question everyone has been asking for years. Sprint now seems camera shy.

Hesse said deals were coming in the wireless industry and Sprint would participate in them. Bravo. That's what we want to hear. However Hesse brought the idea of a few acquisitions to the Sprint board, and the board said no. That was another enormous missed opportunity.

Fear of Failure

I understand Sprint's fear of making a wrong decision. It wants to avoid another Nextel, after all. But mistakes happen. That doesn't mean you stop. That means you keep going.

In every successful company, there are always tons of failures that are forgotten about for every great idea that succeeds. Just think of all the crap companies like Apple and Google have brought us over the years. Yet they are still successful, aren't they? You do remember the first Google Nexus cellphone from about four years ago, don't you?

The bottom line is companies need to be able to negotiate the churning waters with positive messages and growth strategies. Some will work and others will fail. That's life. You can't fail unless you stop trying, and unfortunately that is what we see Sprint doing right now.

MetroPCS does not have to be over for Sprint. It could try to acquire the company and fight T-Mobile. Or it could let this merger take place and then acquire the new, larger company. There are still possibilities.

Does Sprint have the ability to act that way?

This acquisition is important to Sprint, because there are very few deals that are large enough to really impact it. This is it. So, as you can see, the mistakes of the past can still be corrected if Sprint acts. Will it? That is the question we all have. We'll see.
Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is Advanced Frequency Engineering, which put out a very interesting report earlier this week that, if true, really pinches Sprint Nextel's LTE claims. It says there are big differences between Sprint LTE coverage and its advertised claims. The reporting I have read on this takes Sprint by surprise.

This report said that both AT&T and Verizon did better covering 100 percent in their tested areas.

Independent testing was done in Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth and Kansas City, using Samsung Galaxy S III LTE handsets and equipment that analyzes spectrum.

This testing indicated Sprint LTE service was either not present or not accessible in 75-90 percent of its advertised LTE coverage area.

Sprint claims to offer LTE in 19 cities with another 100 on the way in coming months. This study said Sprint had 15 percent coverage in Atlanta, 10 percent coverage in Dallas, 20 percent in Fort Worth, and 25 percent in Kansas City.

So, while Sprint is in those markets, the report says it is barely in those markets.

The choice for customers is simple and clear right now: Either choose AT&T or Verizon for high-speed data, because they have many more cities, or Sprint Nextel for slower connections but unlimited plans.

The lesson here is companies should under-promise and over-deliver. That way you have happy customers. And isn't that the goal?

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a tech analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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