Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CFO Joe Euteneuer said that the company is open to hosting other operator's spectrum on its network, and said there are no major technical limitations to hosting Dish's Network's MSS S-band spectrum, for example.
Speaking Wednesday at the Deutsche Bank Leveraged Finance Conference, Euteneuer reiterated that Sprint's Network Vision architecture with its multi-modal base stations makes it technically possible to host spectrum. Euteneuer did not specifically say Sprint would host Dish's spectrum, but said there would be no major technical barriers to doing so. Sprint and LightSquared had a spectrum hosting deal that fell apart amid concerns that LightSquared's spectrum may cause interference to GPS receivers.
Nevertheless, Euteneuer said spectrum hosting is still possible. "That concept is still a viable concept," he said. "We have the equipment that allows us to bring in different spectrum and put it in the network."
Dish has openly talked about partnering with another wireless carrier to use its 40 MHz of 2 GHz S-band spectrum to deploy an LTE Advanced network. Any Sprint/Dish partnership would be notable in light of the fact that the two have been dueling at the FCC over whether Dish's spectrum holdings should be shifted by 5 MHz.
Euteneuer also discussed Sprint's long-term finances, its relationship with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as well as issues related to Sprint's LTE coverage. However, Euteneuer declined to comment on Deutsche Telekom's bid to combine its T-Mobile USA unit with MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), or reports that Sprint is considering a counterbid.
Euteneuer said Sprint is working closely on Clearwire's TD-LTE deployment, which is planned for the middle of next year. He said Sprint is confident that Clearwire will meet its goal of launching 5,000 sites by the end of June 2013. Sprint plans to use that network to offload data traffic. With Clearwire's spectrum, he said Sprint has a solid spectrum position through 2016, but the company is always looking for more airwaves. "We don't want to be in a position where we misjudged it and all of a sudden spectrum becomes an issue," he said.
The Sprint finance chief said the carrier is ahead of schedule in meeting its four-year, $15.5 billion commitment to Apple to sell the iPhone, adding that the iPhone has been a very positive device for Sprint. As of the end of the second quarter, Sprint had sold 4.8 million iPhones since the gadget went on sale through the carrier in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Euteneuer also addressed the recent debate over whether Sprint's LTE coverage is as robust as it is advertising. Advanced Frequency Engineering, an independent consultancy, said that Sprint is declaring LTE markets launched before there is adequate, usable coverage. Euteneuer said that Sprint is letting customers know that it is launching LTE in a market before that market is complete but is giving customers more detailed street-by-street information on the launch at Sprint stores.
Sprint has said that since the AFE study was compiled in August and early September, the company has increased coverage in its initial LTE markets by 10 percent to 15 percent. Sprint currently has LTE coverage in 19 markets and plans on adding 100 more in the months ahead. The company is committed to deploying LTE covering 123 million POPs by year-end and throughout nearly all of its footprint by the end of 2013.
Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) LTE network currently covers 75 percent of the U.S. population, around 235 million POPs, and the carrier plans to hit 260 million POPs by year-end. AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) LTE network covers more than 75 million POPs, and the carrier plans to expand that to 150 million POPs by year-end. T-Mobile USA plans on launching LTE next year and covering 200 million POPs by the end of 2013.
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