Sprint's Hesse on how the carrier will get back to growth - page 2

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FierceWireless: Why the decision to launch "Any Mobile, Anytime?" What do you think of the T-Mobile rate plan changes--do they affect you in any way?

Hesse: I can't say that competitive moves don't affect us. They all do. That said, we launched "Any Mobile, Anytime," because we were really the only major player in the market without a calling circle, if you will. And we looked at it, and we also did some research, and calling circles, yeah, they're nice, but they're still pretty restrictive. So we thought there was an opportunity, like with Simply Everything, to put a real game changer out there that consumers immediately understand and really like. And that's unlimited mobile-to-mobile.

FierceWireless: Do you think consolidation in the U.S. market is beneficial or necessary?

Hesse: I can't say whether it's beneficial or not. I'm not saying it's not beneficial. I don't see it as necessary, looking at it from Sprint's point of view. What's behind the question sometimes, and they don't say it, is: Do you need to be acquired? And the answer to that is no, that's not necessary. We don't think that's necessary. So I'm not saying that a merger of some kind--and again it's all theoretical--would be beneficial. So there's, if you will, a continuum between beneficial and necessary. I'm saying necessary, no. It's definitely not necessary from our viewpoint.

FierceWireless: What do you think about the FCC's decision to ahead with a rulemaking process that applies net neutrality to wireless? And how do you think this issue of "reasonable network management" is going to be resolved?

Hesse: Well, what we're encouraged by in the FCC chairman's remarks and what's come out from the FCC are, first of all, they understand there are differences between wireless and wireline networks. We support the overall principles of net neutrality. What we want to protect against are any unintended consequences. And that gets into network management. An example would be, you could have three or four users that put their Slingbox on and leave, they could take down a whole sector. That's not good for the consumer, that's not good for the market, it's not good for us, it's not good for anybody. So we need to do certain things, because again wireless networks, even with all of the capacity we're adding--and of course the iPhone-AT&T stuff is a perfect example--wireless networks are more constrained that wireline networks. As long as we can manage the networks appropriately so that we can provide the most benefit to the most users, and not have the many suffer at the hands of the few, I think we can work out a solution with the commission. And I the commission's intent is good, and I think they don't want any unintended consequences either.

FierceWireless: Will Sprint be able to fund Clearwire as well as pay for its acquisitions of Virgin Mobile USA and iPCS?

Hesse: That's correct. We're sitting on, at the end of the third quarter, as I mentioned, almost $6 billion in cash and marketable securities.

FierceWireless: What do you think will be the biggest way for Sprint to grow its 4G strategy and presence? People say the connection is great, but we don't have any great devices to take advantage of the network. When will we see dual-mode 3G/4G handsets?

Hesse: You hit the nail on the head. And the first thing that will make a huge difference, you've seen the MiFi cards for 3G? And we have a dual-mode version now with what's called a Cradlepoint, where you put the dual-mode 3G/4G aircard into this little WiFi router, and it can provide four connections. But it's still a little bulky compared to the 3G version. There will be a new dual-mode version that will be significantly smaller that will come out. 

Then, what will come after that next year are some really cool dual-mode phones. And you're right, as these devices come on board, that will have a big impact on 4G. So when you ask carriers questions about 4G, [it's not just] in terms of having the network up and working, but it's having the devices. Both of them are very important to 4G adoption. And I am really excited about dual-mode phones for next year.

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