Articles by Mark Lowenstein
There have been three broad themes to the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler, reinforced in his remarks at the recent CTIA trade show: more competition, more spectrum, and an open, non-discriminatory Internet. The significant items on the FCC docket that play into these themes--the pending AT&T-Direct TV and Comcast-TWC deals, the 600 MHz incentive auctions, and the ongoing discussions on network neutrality--show that the FCC has taken a lot on, and has had a lot thrown at it. An intransigent Congress and the upcoming mid-term elections are an additional wildcard that could impact how and how quickly these major items are addressed.
Dear Marcelo, Welcome to this exciting and challenging role. Although you are surely aware of the challenges Sprint has faced over the past few years, your predecessor, Dan Hesse, made some of the right calls, especially with regards to thinking long-term with the network rip and replace. Your single greatest opportunity is to leverage that network, as it is completed, into a differentiated value proposition, for both the industry and for customers. Here are some thoughts on how to attract and retain subscribers, grow the business, and make Sprint great again.
T-Mobile cleverly coined the term "uncarrier" to market its maverick moves, changing the game in several aspects of mobile services over the past eighteen months. As the market becomes more competitive, and as the delta between the traditional levers of price, network, device, and value-added services continues to narrow, it is an interesting exercise to consider other "outside the box" moves that wireless operators might initiate. So, here's my contribution of ten 'uncarrier' moves I'd like to see.
With the continued growth in demand for data and proliferation of private and public Wi-Fi hotspots, the idea of a 'Wi-Fi First' wireless service has become a favorite discussion topic. Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless are two MVNOs that are already offering a Wi-First (my term) service, using the Sprint network as cellular backup when not within Wi-Fi coverage. The leading cable MSOs, who have formed the Cable WiFi Alliance, have deployed hundreds of thousands hotspots, and are turning millions of home routers into "neighborhood hotspots" by issuing a second, "public' SSID. Many believe that the cable companies will eventually offer a Wi-First service as a value-add to their broadband customers and as a way of competing with cellular.
This is a critical time in the communications and digital media industries. I'm not arguing for a spate of new regulations, but we do need the public sector to be proactively engaged and involved, in two respects.
SoftBank CEO Masayashi Son, in a Washington tour in March, implied that one of his key goals for Sprint is to become a competitive alternative in broadband, not just wireless. DISH's efforts to enter the mobile space are also predicated on using wireless as a way of offering some form of home broadband service--a key missing link in its residential offerings.
There is tremendous innovation going on, in many sectors of mobile, and in other areas of the digital ecosystem. But most of this I would categorize as "small i" innovation, not "big i" innovation. As far as something game-changing, I think we're in a bit of a "harvesting," or "pause" period.
Regulators blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition and have signaled their distaste for a possible Sprint takeover of T-Mobile. Yet, it appears that Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable has a reasonable chance of being approved. Why is that?
With CES out of the way, it is now time to turn to the serious business of 2014. Since we all like to start the year with resolutions, goals, and objectives, here's my 2014 "To Do" for some of the wireless industry's key players.
Well, it looks like 2016 has arrived a little early. We have all known that a Sprint-TMO combination was a distinct possibility at some point, but believed, given the acquisition, and re-capitalization deals involving both companies just this year, that things would play out for awhile. But Sprint's thinking is that if a merger is a distinct inevitability, perhaps better to do it now. I think this makes some sense, and might be better long-term for the wireless industry and consumers.