SoftBank's Son predicts rising U.S. price competition, calls Claure a 'street fighter'

SoftBank CEO and Sprint (NYSE: S) Chairman Masayoshi Son said that Sprint's network has improved to the point where the carrier can now aggressively start cutting prices. The comments could foreshadow a renewed price war in the United States now that Sprint has reportedly abandoned its attempts to merge with rival T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).

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Son also praised Marcelo Claure, who will take over the helm from Dan Hesse on Monday as CEO of Sprint, as a tough fighter whose entrepreneurial spirit will help continue Sprint's turnaround. The comments from Son are the first detailed, unscripted remarks he has made on Sprint since reports emerged earlier this week that Sprint had dropped its plans to strike a deal with T-Mobile because of concerns that such a transaction would not be approved by regulators.

Speaking on a conference call to discuss Softbank's quarterly earnings, Son said that Sprint can start to aggressively win back customers by pulling levers on price. "Price competition will likely heat up," he said, according to Reuters.

Sprint has largely completed its 3G CDMA network upgrade and has built out LTE service to 254 million POPs, and is now moving forward with the next phase of its network deployment, called Sprint Spark, which features tri-band LTE service. Sprint expects Spark, which uses 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum, to cover 100 million POPs by the end of the year.

"Until now, Sprint didn't have the network to participate much in tough price competition and marketing battles, but now it's ready to move aggressively," Son said.

The SoftBank chief also praised fellow entrepreneur Claure, who founded wireless device distributor Brightstar Corp. in 1997 and built it into a $10.5 billion business. Son said Claure has the gumption and experience to handle the challenges facing Sprint, which has continued to lose subscribers amid its network upgrades.

"Marcelo is a street fighter," Son said, according to Reuters. "You look at his face and that's the sort of look he's got. He's got the look of an outlaw ... I'm confident that with him in charge, Sprint will be a very interesting company."

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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