Sprint: It’s Becoming the “Other Mobile Network”

Hesse staring in one of many Sprint "Simply Everything" commercials

Sprint CEO says no to the AT&T and T-Mo merger.

Cox Communications says it plans to stop building out its wireless network according to Fierce Wireless, which published a story this afternoon citing Cox spokesman David Deliman who said the cable company will “soon” decommission its 3G network. The story noted that Cox, a cable provider, would outsource the wireless operations to Sprint.

So what happens to Cox’s AWS spectrum it is using to deploy its wireless network? Given that AT&T is planing to buy T-Mobile in part because it wants to deploy its 4G LTE network in that spectrum band, I imagine Cox determined that it might better off selling some airwaves and partnering up with Sprint.

This would give Sprint yet another customer to provide 3G access for, with others being Clearwire and Comcast. Even LightSquared, the promised satellite network, could end up sharing resources and wireless towers with Sprint. This puts Sprint in a contradictory position. There are multiple companies relying on it to provide 3G coverage for their 4G or even 3G networks, while its CEO is testifying before the Senate that it will likely cease to exist if AT&T succeeds in buying T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth largest carrier. The AT&T buy would cement AT&T and Verizon as the largest mobile operators and leave Sprint with a mere 18 percent of the nation’s subscribers.

However, as the only viable alternative to the top two players, Sprint could see its fortunes rise as other companies trying to force their way into the mobile broadband game. Plus, as it announces its 4G plans (and yes, it’s going to have to move to LTE especially since Clearwire is planning its move to LTE) it may become a key roaming partner for other operators. Sprint did once tell me it wanted to become a true wholesaler back when it was optimistic about its partnership with Clearwire, so maybe it’s dreams may finally come true as consolidation eats away at competition in the industry.

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