Leap CEO touts network sharing as a solution to spectrum shortages

ORLANDO, Fla.--Noting the significant challenges wireless operators face in terms of spectrum scarcity, Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) CEO Doug Hutcheson proposed that operators look closely at network sharing as a possible solution.

Hutcheson, who spoke at the Competitive Carriers Global Expo here, said that network sharing would improve scale, reduce operating expenses and increase competitiveness for operators. He noted that there are various "flavors" for network sharing: operators could share the radio network, share a common core network or just share cell sites.  

Hutcheson added that network sharing isn't a "radical" solution. He said that many European operators have already embraced network sharing. In addition, he said Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Network Vision project enables a form of network sharing. Sprint recently ended its network-hosting agreement with LightSquared because of that company's troubles with regulators. Originally, Sprint would have hosted LightSquared's 1.5 GHz L-band spectrum on its network infrastructure in exchange for $9 billion in payments and an additional $4.5 billion worth of service credits.

Of course, network sharing would likely mean fewer cell sites and lower capital costs for new radios. "There are capital efficiencies for shared antennas and lower operating costs," Hutcheson noted.

Hutcheson acknowledged that negotiating network-sharing arrangements will not be easy. However, he said that it's necessary to help operators handle data demand, spectrum scarcity and the lack of available capital for network equipment.

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