Sprint wants to increase wholesale customers by 10%

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) plans to increase the number of wholesale customers by 10 percent over the next year, a senior executive said.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Matt Carter, president of Sprint Wholesale Solutions and New Ventures, said the company is accelerating its push into the wholesale business and is providing more services to its wholesale customers. Sprint currently has around more than 100 wholesale customers, representing 6.3 million subscribers. Sprint's total customer base is 53 million. The focus on wholesale, in addition to Sprint's emphasis on its prepaid brands such as Assurance Wireless, indicate that the carrier increases is looking beyond postpaid subscribers to grow its business. 

Carter said Sprint is offering its wholesale customers services such as billing, marketing support and competitive analysis, rather than just selling them capacity. "We are kind of a factory that produces these capabilities," he said.

Some of Sprint's most high-profile wholesale customers include Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) and Best Buy, as well as smaller players such as Credo Mobile, Liberty Wireless and PlatinumTel. Wholesale has become an increasingly critical part of Sprint's business. Sprint added a net of 835,000 wholesale and affiliate subscribers in the third quarter, nearly double the 441,000 retail subscribers it added. That was a stark reversal from the third quarter last year when wholesale additions trailed Sprint's branded customers.

Sprint said  in August it would start wholesaling Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network to other companies, one of the results of a revised wholesale agreement the two companies inked in April. Carter said Sprint is marketing its wholesale capabilities to a variety of companies, including retailers and international carriers.

Interestingly, Carter said customers of an unnamed Chinese carrier can get Sprint's handsets and service under the Chinese company's brand when they stay in the United States for prolonged periods of time. Donald Tan, president of China Telecom Americas, told Bloomberg in a recent interview that the telco will start selling wireless service in the United States under its own brand as an MVNO. Tan said that China Telecom, which uses the CDMA 2000 standard, is already in market trials with several potential wholesale partners, which he declined to name.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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