Sprint to investors: Focus is on retention

During the UBS 35th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York yesterday, Paul Saleh, acting CEO and CFO of Sprint Nextel told investors that the company would be focusing its energy on retaining customers and re-invigorating the Nextel Direct Connect brand.

Saleh admitted that the company's iDEN subscriber trends were alarming with gross adds down nearly 50 percent. However, he blamed those issues on network problems as a result of the company's new 6:1 vocoder and a lack of Direct Connect marketing, which he said was down 75 percent. To turn this around, Saleh said the company is going to significantly increase its Direct Connect marketing and introduce as many as two new iDEN devices before year-end.

The company will continue to push its rollout of Qualcomm's QChat proprietary push-to-talk technology, which Saleh said is currently in alpha testing. He expects commercial QChat handsets to be on the market late in the first quarter and he hinted that the company will be debuting new consumer-oriented PTT services that incorporate social networking, push to video and more. When asked about rumors that Verizon Wireless is planning to upgrade or enhance its existing PTT service, Saleh said that the QChat technology is proprietary and he doesn't think Verizon will have a PTT service comparable to QChat or iDEN.

On the Xohm front, Saleh said that the company is still figuring out the extent of its WiMAX deployment in 2008. He said that Sprint is looking at different ways to finance Xohm that will generate higher returns, but he didn't give specifics on what those options are. -Sue