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Japan's Softbank Buying Sprint, Creating Third-Largest Global Carrier

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the anticipate-xenophobes dept.

Businesses 59

New submitter metallurge writes "Japan's third-largest wireless carrier intends to acquire Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier for 20.1 billion U.S. dollars, creating the third-largest global carrier. After the transaction is completed, Softbank will own 70% of the newly-created 'New Sprint,' which will maintain current Sprint CEO Dan Hesse in that role. How this will affect Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile's attempt to merge with Sprint reseller MetroPCS is unclear."

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TORA !! TORA !! TORA !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668099)

Midway ??

MVNO (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41668171)

Isn't sprint like the king of MVNO operators in the USA, like they make more dough off MVNO's reselling them than via retail ops directly selling Sprint, or so I've heard? I wonder if softbank will change strategies. That would certainly shake things up. Hope the MVNO's have solid contracts and/or deep pockets.

Re:MVNO (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 2 years ago | (#41668313)

I'm with Credo, which uses Sprint's network. They aren't the cheapest around, but they have good service and the biggest selling point is that they aren't evil. They give to a lot of progressive charities (in fact they give the option of rounding up your bill to the next dollar or five to donate) and they stood up to the government a few months back when they demanded customer information without a warrant (at least everyone was pretty sure it was Credo, the company was being kept secret but some people were able to narrow it down).

Re:MVNO (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#41668873)

Sprint now owns three of their MVNO's and earns a significant chunk of their revenue through them so I doubt they'll be abandoning the model anytime soon.

Re:MVNO (2)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 2 years ago | (#41670665)

Sprint has always made more money selling to operators than to end users. This goes all the way back to the company's creation, when they were part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Little known fact: Sprint is an acronym (Southern Pacific Railroad Intercontinental Network Telecommunications).

They started with selling long distance service to corporations as "private lines" in competition to AT&T using the microwave network and fiber the railroad built on their right-of-way. With a court decision allowing them to have a switched network rather than just private lines, they got into retail sales.

Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (4, Informative)

pecosdave (536896) | about 2 years ago | (#41668185)

Been a customer of theirs going on my third year. When I get a great signal there's often very little back-haul. I really feel screwed over the way they lured me in with the promise of WiMax, and their LTE is lacking most of the time. Not to mention now that I've upgraded my phone I pay more every month, but they took away my unlimited tethering data plan - they still charge the same.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

pesho (843750) | about 2 years ago | (#41668377)

I am in a similar position. Unfortunately where I live the only other choice is ATT and they are not much more appealing. I think I am going to switch to Ting mobile. They are a Sprint MVNO so the network will suck as badly as it sucks now, but they will be at least two fold cheaper. This is after you account for a paying a full price on a shiny new android phone.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668557)

Ting is a good choice for many people who do not come close to using all the minutes and data offered in their existing plan. It is also a good option for those whose usage can vary widely month to month since you only pay for the "bucket" (plan level) you use separately for voice, text, & data each month. This minimizes waste

You can also easily share the plan with another phone.for an additional $6 per month per phone.

Soon, Ting will be able to offer their service to those who can bring their own Sprint or Sprint MVNO phone (except iPhone, Boost, Virgin Mobile). They are already testing this and hope to have it available before the end of the year. Of course, they still offer their shiny new & refurbished phones.

If you choose to buy a phone, this referral link can save you $25.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670025)

Or save $50 by going to

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668833)

Ting also now offers the Airave femtocell device (it's currently $190). If Sprint coverage is weak in your home or office but pretty good everywhere else you spend a lot of time, this is a possible option. Caveat: I've not bought one yet but am considering it.

Note though that Ting roams w/o charge for voice and text (NOT data) to Verizon so that's comforting. For data, Ting doesn't roam so their data footprint is not even as good as what native Sprint shows (check Ting's coverage maps, not Sprint's). Unfortunately, I have found that in my home where the Verizon signal is strong, Sprint's appears quite a bit weaker resulting in poor voice quality, but it's strong enough that I don't roam to Verizon :(

Ting's "bucket" system of charging is a bit annoying. I would prefer a pure utility model - use 110 minutes, pay for 110 minutes (instead of being bumped up to the next tier and pay $10 for 390 minutes I didn't use -- and there's no rollover).

That said, I'm quite happy with the service due to good value for the money (did I mention it's quite cheap if you don't use much data). They have great customer service with the exception their hours are limited to Monday to Friday from 8am until 8pm (ET) although it appears that some employees monitor issues/forums "on their own time" and get some issues resolved outside of normal hours. It's a nice solution for some - esp. with multiple phones (all devices share minutes/text/megabytes).

And, like others, using this referral link will get you $25 off your first device (full disclosure, it also gives me $25 credit when that device is activated): []

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

True Vox (841523) | about 2 years ago | (#41670061)

I too am a Ting customer, and I will second your statement pretty much in its entirety (Esp WRT the buckets gripe - it really is the worst thing I can say about Ting though, and that's good :D). I finally went in for the Airave, and am just waiting for it to get here. I'm pretty excited.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668501)

That's funny, my signal strength is great, I get 4G, I have unlimited data (with tethering), and I pay less than I would on Verizon or ATT. YMMV based on your local market.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 2 years ago | (#41668803)

If I'm in a white-collar/uppity area that's close to a central metro I get GREAT LTE or even WiMax most of the time.

I got great coverage all over San Antonio and most of Dallas.

Houston is great inside the loop, really close to the Space Center or most other notable areas, but once you go South of NASA Parkway it tends to cut off. Right now just a few miles South of NASA parkway where 646 crosses 45 you can get a reasonable 3G signal with NOT BACKHAUL AT ALL. Seriously, 3G but no data. There's a Sprint store in that pocket as well. Galveston - I was actually getting a strong LTE connection last weekend - I was still longing for 14.4 modem speeds because I'm pretty sure I didn't have that much even with a strong LTE signal.

In Baton Rouge they should be forced to shut down all of their stores and get fined for false advertising because they claim to cover the area.

To their credit - if I want to text or make a phone call it will work 98% of the time. If I want to use something as simple and lowly as any given TCP/IP based messenger app it's a crap shoot. As long as I'm next to an interstate or a white-collar area it's probably going to work at least a little.

I will say - back when I still had WiMax if I managed to get a WiMax signal it was awesome, as good as having DSL straight into my netbook. They seem to have perpetual back-haul issues these days - crappy through put even when I have a great signal. Works great when I'm on WiFi so I know it's not the handset.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#41668931)

That's because Houston's Network Vision upgrade won't be completed until Feb/Mar 2013, they concentrated on the city core first as that's where the most congestion and backhaul usage is. Once the upgrade is completed you should get pretty good service everywhere you have a strong signal. The network upgrade is also happening across the country with various markets on various schedules, a good site for network vision and LTE rollout updates is s4gru [] .

Don't hold your breath (1)

Picass0 (147474) | about 2 years ago | (#41668605)

I live in Omaha NE, Sprint still hasn't turned on their 4G LTE. Verizon's had theirs for ages, but I don't want to worry about overage fees. I always go over 2gb per month. Unlimited data is one of my requirements for a carrier.

Sprint likes to throw around a map of all the places about to have 4G, but they never want to get into tentative dates.

T-Mobile isn't in this area or I'd jump ship. Unlimited data and 4G LTE. I even like Carly Foulkes.

As for the tethering - if you're willing to root your phone there are plenty of Android ROMs that will allow you to tether. I have a ROM called "Blu Cuban" on my Galaxy S2 based Ice Cream Sandwich. I tether all the time and it's never shown up on my phone bill. Check out If you've never rooted your phone before there's a million videos on youtube to show you how.

Sprint - the budget "big name" carrier .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 2 years ago | (#41668747)

I'm still using Sprint, myself, as my former employer originally issued most of their employees Nextel phones years ago, and it finally quit making sense to continue on with those. (Sprint bought out Nextel and has been slowly herding people off of that network.)

I don't work for them anymore, but I opted to keep the phone and service for now. (I have an iPhone 4s so at least the handset isn't too bad.)

Unlike a lot of people, I guess I never really felt screwed over by Sprint -- but I've also tried to keep realistic expectations about their offerings. Essentially, Sprint is the biggest "budget priced carrier" in the U.S. To find cheaper rates than they offer, you have to step down to regional carriers (who more often than not are contracted with Sprint to provide their service for them anyway!). Unfortunately, when you opt for the cheaper regionals, you discover they don't have all the roaming agreements in place that Sprint does, meaning your coverage is worse than what you get as a Sprint customer, despite your regional phone using their towers.

Yes, their data xfer rates are pretty poor, across the board. But they're not charging you by the megabyte or gigabyte downloaded either. When I'm on my phone, I'm not that concerned about my data being really fast. (It wasn't THAT long ago I remember using analog cellphones with built-in dial-up modems establishing their data connections. ANYTHING we've got today beats that!)

Also, Sprint does offer the "Airave" signal boosters for your home or office, which re-route your cellular data and calls onto your broadband wired network. If you have a lot of reception issues in your home or business, they'll often loan you an Airave at no charge if you talk to your sales rep about it.

All things considered, I'd rather have a Verizon (or even AT&T) phone if I wasn't the one paying the bill for it. But Sprint offers a pretty good compromise, IMO, of letting you stick with a nation-wide carrier who offers some of the more desirable handsets, while keeping costs below the others.

Re:Sprint - the budget "big name" carrier .... (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 2 years ago | (#41668851)

Handset choices are what brought me to Sprint.

When the original Evo 4G was new there wasn't anything that really rivaled it, a few came close, but none beat it for at least a few months. Now my Evo 4G LTE is nice, but harder to root. I've still got factory firmware and I'm feeling the abuse.

I could totally write a whole new rant about how they abuse their position with shoving spyware and other shitty software down our throats.

Re:Sprint - the budget "big name" carrier .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41669737)

Tmobile was cheaper than sprint last i checked.

Re:Sprint - the budget "big name" carrier .... (1)

jftitan (736933) | about 2 years ago | (#41673643)

Same here,

    I've had my Sprint service back when "PCS" meant "Professional Customer Service". The Sprint/Nextel buyout, then up to recent history, the T-Mobile attempt, only to be foiled by AT&T making a slightly higher bid.

  I''ve had my phone number from sprint (never ported) for 15 years. Its funny when people ask me today whats my phone number, meanwhile most people around me change cell phone carriers including phone numbers like they do changing underwear. It just appalls me how often I have to update people's contact numbers because they changed carriers three times in one year. (Prepay made this worse)

  I can't really fault/blame Sprint for the apparent drop in speeds throughout the years. I was also one of those users who used Unlimited 3G Data-cards, then WiMax, and now kicked off of the data-card situation because Sprint no longer offers "Unlimited Data" to data devices. (I've argued with better people who were proven wrong, Sprint's Unlimited Data is strictly limited to just the handset) Otherwise, an additional fee for tethering is now the thing. (Recently with Verizon losing a Supreme Court case, Tethering can't be charged anymore. So lets wait to see the rest of the carriers debate the differences between Data use of handset versus a connected device. (Net Neutrality)

    I wasn't mad when Sprint kicked my Unlimited Data Plan (Sierra Wireless Overdrive Pro), they were literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had a signed contract legally binding Sprint to offer me Unlimited Data, but Sprint's systems no longer had the unlimited data-plan in billing. So I was let out of my contract, and given refunds. However as for my phones, I never renew my plan. I've been month to month for so long now Sprint has to really jump through their own mess to make exceptions for me. You see, I pay for my phones outright. I'll walk into a Sprint store, and drop $600~800 for a new Smartphone, then perform a manual upgrade, to which exceptions have to be made in billing to add $10 fee to a plan that doesn't support it. (During the time when I added WiMAX to my services we had to debate the $10 fee situation. "Was this fee actually for the Newness of the device, or was it literally a added on fee for those who have Unlimited 3G, and want 4G added to the account.")

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668929)

Sorry--SoftBank is the suckiest carrier in Japan--terrible signal quality, despite a lot of advertisements about how they've "improved." They used to attract switchers as the sole provider of the iPhone, but as they no longer have exclusivity, their gain in market share has slowed to a trickle. A lot of SB customers in Japan are gnashing their teeth over this acquisition, in which SB effectively invested its profits into a totally new market rather than re-investing into their core customer base.

Having said all that, SB is a wet dream compared to the clusterf*ck that is AT&T Wireless. (Don't know about Sprint)

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670253)

If they come out with one single phone that works in both Japan and the USA - for frequent travellers - they will suck less.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

Kazymyr (190114) | about 2 years ago | (#41670277)

Well, first of all there never was any talk of LTE on Sprint. Their WiMax finally began extending to relevant areas (they started by covering some rural areas in Georgia - WTF?) I agree coverage sucks in some areas, but it's pretty good here. There's unlimited data included, at a time where few other carriers can claim the same. As for tethering, there are always 3rd party applications that allow you to do it. I just hope that if they do get bought the unlimited data doesn't get pulled.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

Loopy (41728) | about 2 years ago | (#41675067)

Been a sprint customer since the late 90s. Started with a Palm Pre, upgraded to an EVO 4G (WiMax) and am now on a Galaxy S3 LTE.

The WiMax coverage for the EVO was primarily in the larger areas as people have said but I knew that before I bought the damned phone; I'd have felt silly buying a "high speed data" phone without researching whether the product was designed to work in my area. ;) WiMax, where it was available, was always very fast and connections were reliable enough that I never noticed anything untoward.

My S3 has much more limited coverage (which I knew) but is even faster in-zone. I primarily use 3G but I'll admit to not being the type that uses my phone as an entertainment console, so the occasional surfing I do to look things up while shopping or browsing weather radar or news while out and about works like a champ so far.

So far, I can't complain about Sprint. I haven't had any trouble with them jacking my rates or failing to grandfather in the All Everything All The Time plan I've had since 2002 or so. Based on my experience, I suspect this is mostly due to being both cognizant of realistic expectations for coverage and vigilant about letting the sales reps not screw up my paperwork.

Re:Will this somehow cause Sprint to stop sucking? (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 2 years ago | (#41675809)

Funny - they refused to grandfather my unlimited tethering when going from the Evo 4G to 4G LTE they insisted I had to have a different plan for a different connection type.

I know all about corporate spin.

BTW, I spent quite a bit of time within 20 miles of either end of the Lincoln tunnel towards the end of the summer. Their coverage wasn't all that hot in that are either - which really surprised me - Houston had better coverage than NYC.

Could be worse (2)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about 2 years ago | (#41668261)

CenturyLink could have bought them.

Re:Could be worse (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 2 years ago | (#41668483)

Somewhat related but CenturyLink DID buy the old wireline assets that Sprint spun off as Embarq.

Re:Could be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668651)

Yep, I worked for CenturyTel back in the early 2000's at their headquarters when they sold their wireless properties to Alltel. CenturyLink's current strategy would not include them returning to the wireless market.

Too late? (2)

emho24 (2531820) | about 2 years ago | (#41668285)

Even if this causes a huge improvement in less dropped calls and speed, it will take a while for any magical Sprint transformation. Sprint service in my town has been miserable for over a year solid, I'm not waiting around for anything.

When my contract is up, I'm headed to greener pastures.

Re:Too late? (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | about 2 years ago | (#41668643)

Sprint doesn't drop calls in my neck of the woods, but the data speeds are godawful slow. Meanwhile, Verizon has had LTE in the area for over a year now, although Verizon costs more.

Explains my crappy signal strength (4, Funny)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 2 years ago | (#41668297)

Sprint has apparently already moved it's towers to Japan

Re:Explains my crappy signal strength (4, Informative)

LifeIs0x2A (2615925) | about 2 years ago | (#41668507)

Actually Softbank is the carrier with the shittiest signal in Japan..

Re:Explains my crappy signal strength (3, Interesting)

Pikoro (844299) | about 2 years ago | (#41669069)

So true. Only reason they were ever able to gain any kind of market share here is because they had the iphone. Now that it's available with any carrier, people are leaving them in droves for either au or docomo.

Re:Explains my crappy signal strength (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671171)

Actually, when the iPhone came out in Japan, only Softbank and eMobile were offering unlimited data. I think the unlimited data made a big difference as well. Docomo's data was crazy expensive, as was AU's.

Re:Explains my crappy signal strength (4, Insightful)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about 2 years ago | (#41669417)

Great! They're a perfect match.

Third largest? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668353)

How does a 30 million subscriber operator in Japan combined with Sprint become the third-largest global carrier - it'll have well under 100 million subscribers, so well behind all of: China Mobile, Vodafone, Airtel, AMX, Telefonica, Orange, VimpelCom, China Unicom, MTN, Etisalata, Axiata, TeliaSonera, Telenor etc etc etc

Re:Third largest? (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | about 2 years ago | (#41668721)

Sprint is also AS1239 (sprintlink) if they're counting that.

Re:Third largest? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668771)

When did China Mobile etc become US CARRIERS?

"the third-largest U.S. carrier"


Re:Third largest? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668865)

"creating the third-largest global carrier"

Re:Third largest? (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | about 2 years ago | (#41668867)

From the summary:

creating the third-largest global carrier.

Anonymous idiots are idiots.

Re:Third largest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668997)

Perhaps those are not global carriers?

Gleat (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668401)

Now I have to get used to calling it Splint.

Re:Gleat (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 years ago | (#41669177)

the japanese do have an 'r' sound distinct from 'l', but it is pronounced in a manner halfway between the english 'l' and 'r' sound. an english speaker could start to make the 'l' sound, but make the tongue stop short of the roof of the mouth, almost in the position for the letter 'd'

Carrier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41668699)

I first read "Carrier" as "Cartel"... Silly me :p

Finally some Windows phones? (1)

modi123 (750470) | about 2 years ago | (#41668991)

Will this finally get Sprint on board with Windows8 phones, or do I need to keep getting refurbed flip-phones?

Re:Finally some Windows phones? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41669451)

Softbank doesn't sell any Windows phones in Japan. The only vendor who does is AU (KDDI), although I've never seen an actual customer with one outside of a shop.. Currently Softbank sells the iPhone, a bunch of Japanese Android and flip-phone models and the Motorola Razr.

Incidentally, if you want a Samsung in Japan, Docomo is the best bet.

Re:Finally some Windows phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41673613)

Fuck you and your small marketshare, get an iPhone or Android phone like everyone else! ... how does it feel, Microsoft fan-boy? Get used to it, this isn't the 1990's anymore.

Who are we? (4, Funny)

CCarrot (1562079) | about 2 years ago | (#41669237)

"Japan's third-largest wireless carrier intends to acquire Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier for 20.1 Billion U.S. dollars, creating the third-largest global carrier. ..."

We're number three! We're number three!

Re:Who are we? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41669587)

This means Sprint/Softbank are infringing 3's [] trademark!

,Yuo Fail IVt? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41669799)

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Not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670009)

MetroPCS owns their own equipment. Which is why they went straight from 2G to LTE.

New Sprint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670115)

If it's anything like New Coke, expect a "Sprint Classic" and the "NASCAR Sprint Classic Cup" not to be far behind..

Should be a great move... (4, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 years ago | (#41670393)

What Sprint desperately needs, right now, is a huge influx of capital. They've got some extremely valuable frequencies, which they are freeing-up in just a few months as they kick people off iDEN/Nextel. These lower frequencies are the difference between Sprint having piss-poor coverage outside of the most dense cities, and them having deep coverage that can really compete with AT&T and Verizon. Sprint's poor cellular coverage is directly related to using the 1.9GHz spectrum, and needing more towers to get equivalent coverage.

Combine those lower frequencies with LTE, and start on a building-spree, and Sprint could put together a respectable LTE network pretty quickly. Consumers haven't really embraced 4G in a big-way, for whatever reason (cost, coverage, power-sucking chipsets, etc), so Sprint isn't terribly disadvantaged just yet.

What's more, they COULD have a huge advantage over AT&T/Verizon right now, if they would leverage WiMax during the LTE build-out... Just start selling CDMA+WiMax+LTE handsets, and let them use the fastest service available, and doing the LTE build-out FIRST in areas that currently lack WiMax. Sprint could have an impressive "4G" coverage map right away, if dual WiMax/LTE phones existed, and Sprint leveraged both to good effect from the start (ie. NOW). Their status as the only carrier who is NOT capping or throttling customers due to data usage would make their 4G service an even bigger selling point.

They could also double-down on this strategy, by using WiMax/LTE for their dumb phones as well, if in a bandwidth-limited form, moving people off of 3G/CDMA that much faster, and putting an end to the need to spend resources to continue expanding their current 3G network, which will soon be getting far less use, no matter what.

Re:Should be a great move... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675317)

All true. Somehow, I think NONE of that is going to happen. Just going by history . . .

third-largest... (1)

ArturoBandini77 (2610501) | about 2 years ago | (#41670401)

... buys third-largest to get third-largest ...
Recursive??? :D

MetroPCS is not a Sprint reseller (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#41671017)

They probably have a roaming agreement, but no, MetroPCS is an independent company with its own spectrum and network.

As far as the effect on the T-Metro merger goes, I doubt it'll have any impact whatsoever. Unfortunately.

Nice play on words... (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about 2 years ago | (#41671369)

So the company whose coverage is third to worst where I live, has overall coverage that is third largest worldwide.


Splint PCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675215)

New company to be known as Splint PCS.

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