SoftBank will invest $16B in Sprint, open R&D center in Silicon Valley

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said that is company is planning to invest $16 billion in Sprint (NYSE:S)  over the next two years.  In an interview with Japanese news service Nikkei, Son said that SoftBank wants to make Sprint a more serious challenger for its rivals AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which each have nearly twice as many customers as Sprint.

Son said the pace of investment at Sprint will significantly increase and that most of the $16 billion will be spent on base stations for Sprint's LTE network.  SoftBank is also adding base stations to its network in Japan and Son believes that the two companies will save money by joining forces on network infrastructure and smartphone purchases.

Son said that $16 billion in spending will be evenly spread out between this year and 2014 and that after that spending will slow to a rate of about $6 billion per year.  

The two companies will also open a joint R&D center in California as early as this year. That center will draw engineers from both companies and will work on both hardware and software, Son said. Eventually, he expects the R&D center to house about 1,000 engineers.

Son said he will chair the new Sprint's board of directors. Ronald Fisher, who now heads Softbank's U.S. operations will serve as deputy chairman.  In addition, four current Sprint directors, including CEO Dan Hesse will remain on the board.

In previous interviews, Son has indicated Sprint will maintain its unlimited smartphone data pricing, but also hinted more changes could come.

Late last week, the FCC approved SoftBank's $21.6 billion bid for Sprint and Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR). Sprint's shareholders approved the SoftBank deal June 25 and Clearwire's shareholders are scheduled to vote on Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire today.  SoftBank said it expects the acquisition to close July 10.

 For more:
- see this Nikkei article
- see this related FierceWireless article

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