Sprint's Elfman: Wireless consolidation is inevitable

T-Mobile USA will likely need to partner with another wireless company if AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile falls through, a top Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) executive said.

"I think T-Mobile will need to hook up or do as we do--partner with a Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) or others, or LightSquared, as we have done," Steve Elfman, president of Sprint's network operations, said in an interview with the Seattle Times. "The smaller guys like us and them--and I know it seems odd to call ourselves small, but when you're around the monopolists you're quite small--you've got to do some creative things."

In a wide-ranging interview, Elfman also said that he thinks "there's inevitability in this industry, like others, to get some consolidation."

Sprint is set to unveil the remaining pieces of its 4G strategy at an investor conference in New York Oct. 7, and there has been renewed speculation that Sprint will make an investment in Clearwire--or perhaps buy Clearwire. Elfman conceded that LTE will eventually surpass WiMAX service, which Clearwire currently uses and Sprint resells. However, he didn't offer any insights into Sprint's future plans.

Elfman also pushed the company line on opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, and said Sprint will try and remain a value player in the market. "Between the two of us, we kind of kept the market having reasonable prices, both value and low price," he said of Sprint and T-Mobile. "So I think that is another one that starts to go away and that will drive prices up. We will try our best to be the alternative, but when you're only 15 percent share it's going to get pretty hard for us."

For more:
- see this Seattle Times article

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