It seems that many of the online reports are showing that Sprint has very little chance of surviving as the number 3 carrier behind the combined forces of AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. What people are forgetting is that Sprint has a pretty solid seat with nearly 50 million subscribers, a great pre-paid following and quite a few government contracts.
For the most part, the little Wi-Max powered monster should be able to do very well with its comfortable niche but will it stop the bleeding long enough to stop being the headlines of the rumor mill?
Sprint is lacking in some major areas. First off, the lack of coverage – when not roaming on to Verizon’s network – in rural areas. Sprint offers good coverage, but it’s far from perfect. Second, Sprint may have been ‘first’ to the 4G races, but they really need to abandon their current plan of WiMax if Clear is truly stopping expansion. Third, Sprint needs some major new blood in the device department. Finally, Sprint needs to pull together some exclusive deals that blow the competition out of the water.
Sprint’s coverage map looks really impressive on paper, and for the most part, holds up to that map when you are out and about. The main issue becomes going indoors. We have used each of the top 3 carriers – Verizon, AT&T and Sprint – and have to say that Sprint has the worst indoor coverage of any of the three. Verizon had the best results, but also the highest bill. Sure, there comes a point when you look at the bill vs. the performance, but for the average single user, your Sprint bill is only $5-10 a month under Verizon’s. For families, you might save $25-50 a month, but again, $5-10 a line isn’t much to pay for the better (and faster) 4G coverage.
This leads us to the second point, the 4G races. While Sprint launched first, the network expansion has slowed greatly. With AT&T running their LTE network out to the public and Verizon announcing 5-10 cities a month (even in limited capacity) Sprint is all but forgotten. Sure, the speeds of the LTE networks are are a bit higher, but honestly, 5Mbps down is more than enough for anyone running a browser from a phone.
Next up in the game of survival is the need for some real devices. Sure, they have the Nexus S 4G, the Keyocera Echo and the HTC Arrive, but nothing really amazing in device land. They have some new blood coming soon in the EVO 3D (which we really see as a gimmick device that some will love, but not all), the Samsung D600 (more entry level, but a good price point could make this a great buy), other than that, not much is coming on the horizon. They need to get something that is the magnitude of the EVO launch last year, and frankly, we just don’t see it this summer.
Sprint has really been piling on the ‘add-on’ items from other vendors as of late. Their deal with their Total Equipment Protection customers being able to add a complete protection software was a great move. The move from ‘Sprint Navigator’ back to ‘Telenav’ was great as well. The move to combine services with Google’s voice service was even better. Now, if they can add some additional value over Verizon’s services, they just might have something more – and an NFC powered system like Google Checkout just might be the next step.
Overall, Sprint should survive and have some luck with the larger carriers not having the customer service capabilities to handle their larger customer shares. The true longevity of the company though will depend on the ability to continue to offer low cost service and the most bang for the buck. If their network quality begins to suffer, the service levels drop or even the device selection begins to dwindle, Sprint may just end up being the nation’s largest pre-paid subscriber company.