Analysts: Sprint marketing weak, will Qchat help?

Wall Street analysts have been mulling over Sprint's competitive position since the carrier announced a less than stellar quarter last month. Some say poor marketing was the root of the company's low subscriber uptake. Christopher King, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company says service disruption during the rebranding process following the Sprint/Nextel merger led to an impression among users of network unreliability. Most troubling, however, King said is that "their marketing effort has been spotty at best. They're running two different technologies under two different brand names."

Verizon uses "network reliability" as its angle while Cingular touts to "having the fewest dropped calls." But according to King, "Sprint doesn't really have anything that they can hang their hat on from a marketing standpoint... yet." Sprint launched a "Power Up" marketing campaign this past summer that claims Sprint Nextel has the largest mobile broadband network. Time will tell whether potential subscribers put any stock in mobile broadband.

Will push-to-talk over EV-DO help with the disparity? Sprint finally announced what the industry speculated all along: that it would deploy Qualcomm's PTT Qchat technology. Lucent Technologies is developing the software and infrastructure for the service. Sprint plans to bring fully functioning "walkie-talkie" service to its CDMA network as well as link up with Nextel's successful PTT service. Nextel bought the exclusive rights to Qchat in 2002, effectively keeping U.S. CDMA competitors from deploying the service, which had the best latency times of all competing solutions for CDMA. Verizon and pre-merger Sprint subsequently deployed solutions that couldn't compete with iDEN on quality. Another interesting note, Motorola, the sole provider of iDEN equipment and PTT technology for Sprint Nextel's iDEN network, looks like it has been shut out of the entire Qchat deal.

For more on Sprint's marketing initiatives:
- see this article in The Washington Times
check out this release from Sprint