Report: Sprint could bring back Nextel brand to lure business customers

Sprint (NYSE:S) may be bringing back the Nextel brand to lure enterprise customers back into the fold, according to a TechCrunch report. The report, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the company's plans, also said that Sprint may merge its Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile prepaid brands into a new brand dubbed "Sprint Freedom."

The branding refresh could happen as soon as the first quarter of this year, according to the report, and the re-emergence of the Nextel brand is part of a larger push to woo business customers. Sprint effectively killed the Nextel brand--and removed it from its corporate name--after shutting down the Nextel iDEN network in the middle of last year. In the shutdown, Sprint lost millions of subscribers, many of whom had so-called mixed accounts with both iDEN and CDMA devices.

Sprint declined to comment, according to the report, and a Sprint spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FierceWireless.

According to the report, the Nextel service will be a "premium" service consisting of the fixed and mobile broadband services that were originally the Clearwire business; it's not clear if that means they will be WiMAX or Sprint's new tri-mode LTE services. The Nextel name, the report quoted its source as saying, will go "on top of everything that was Clear and then target businesses."

A push to get enterprise customers makes sense, since Sprint lost many of them in the Nextel shutdown. However, Sprint spent months trying to get those customers to convert to an enhanced CDMA push-to-talk service.

Meanwhile, the report said Boost and Virgin will be folded into the Sprint Freedom service, which could mean the disappearance of the two prepaid brands. Sprint's Assurance Wireless service for low-income customers will not be affected, the report said. Last fall Sprint made Clearwire's former senior vice president for retail, Dow Draper, its new head of prepaid sales. In November, Draper told reporters his focus was on building out the retail distribution of both Boost and Virgin, from national retailers such as Walmart down to local dealers. He also said he was thinking about a financing model for prepaid smartphones, but had no concrete plans.

The changes would come as Sprint is busy finishing up its Network Vision network modernization and building outs its tri-mode LTE Sprint Spark service. Additionally, reports swirled late last year that Sprint was mulling a bid for T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) sometime in the first half of 2014.

For more:
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this CNET article

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