Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is squarely focused on driving its Network Vision network modernization project, which includes the rollout of LTE network technology, and is not letting Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) and SoftBank's competing bids for the company affect the effort, according to Sprint CFO Joe Eueteneuer.
In an interview with FierceWireless, Euteneuer reiterated what CEO Dan Hesse said on the company's first-quarter earnings conference call, that "we haven't taken our eye off of operations."
"Irrespective of the two deals, we are running our business as if none of the deals are going to close and we have to remain a sustainable, standalone entity," Euteneuer said. When asked if the deals are affecting how Sprint management is executing on Network Vision, Euteneuer said "not at all."
Some analysts have worried that the deals, and their drain on management's time and energy, will affect the pace of Sprint's network upgrade, which is a multibillion-dollar effort to retool Sprint's networks. It includes the shutdown of the Nextel iDEN network, scheduled for June 30; upgrades to Sprint's CDMA service; the deployment of LTE on Sprint's 1900 MHz PCS spectrum; and the deployment of CDMA voice service and eventually LTE on Sprint's 800 MHz spectrum, which used to be reserved for iDEN service.
Sprint currently has more than 13,500 Network Vision sites on air, up from the 8,000 the carrier reported on Feb. 7. The carrier said its rollout is ahead of schedule. Euteneuer said Network Vision "is at a great pace," and that Sprint will look to maintain that pace as it goes through the year.
Industry analyst William Ho recently told FierceWireless that in the short-term Sprint's LTE plans will progress as planned for the rest of 2013 and possibly into 2014 because that capital has already been allocated. Sprint spent $1.8 billion on capital expenditures in the first quarter, which included $1.4 billion on Network Vision. Euteneuer noted that Sprint expects total capex spending to continue at similar to slightly higher levels throughout 2013.
Sprint plans to cover 200 million POPs with LTE by the end of the year, which is down from its initial goal of 250 million. Euteneuer said the company remains on target for 200 million. He declined to say how many POPs Sprint currently covers with LTE, and Sprint has noted the count is difficult to obtain since the company is turning on Network Vision cell site clusters as fast as it can. Sprint first deployed LTE in July 2012.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which launched LTE in December 2010, said this month that its LTE network now covers 287 million POPs, making it the nation's largest LTE network by far. Verizon expects to complete its LTE buildout by the middle of the year. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which launched LTE in September 2011, said it currently covers 200 million POPs with LTE and plans to cover around 270 million by the end of the year. T-Mobile USA just deployed LTE in seven markets but plans to cover 100 million POPs by mid-year and 200 million by the end of 2013.
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