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October 15, 2012

Softbank Boss Masayoshi Son is Speed Maniac

Softbank Boss Masayoshi Son has complained about the molasses-speed wireless connections in the USA. In Japan, the newest and fastest cellular signals are nearly everywhere, and their capacity to channel huge vats of data means sluggish downloads are rare.

The Softbank deal should mean
* Aggressive pricing
* Likely Faster conversion to LTE
* Faster speed wireless a priority

SoftBank’s rise in Japan — despite the name, it’s primarily a wireless phone company — came from being the first to sell Apple’s iPhone there and from undercutting the competition on price. Already, Sprint generally sells the least-expensive wireless service and is the only major carrier to offer unlimited data plans for smartphones.

“If history is any guide,” wrote analyst Craig Moffett of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., “Sprint will be an aggressive pricer.”

Analysts say none of that is a promise to transform America’s wireless landscape, or even that Sprint will be able to markedly quicken its rollout of a better, faster network.

For starters, he’s likely to push Sprint to make faster connections a priority.

“I am a speed maniac,” Son has said, adding he “cannot stand the slowness of the speed” in the United States.

Yet the Japanese use the same LTE, or long term evolution technology, that U.S. companies are rolling out. It’s just that the Japanese are ahead. It’s part of the reason consumers there don’t blink an eye about using their phones to get soda from vending machines, to board subways, to buy plane tickets or to watch television.

CNET - Softbank uses a variant of LTE called TD-LTE, which is similar to the technology that Clearwire is using. Sprint has already committed to Clearwire as its largest customer and shareholder, and plans to use Clearwire's network to augment its own coverage in big and crowded markets.

WSJ - SoftBank has deployed more than 200,000 base stations alone on its LTE network, while all the U.S. operators combined have only deployed approximately 285,000 cell sites on their LTE networks.



Should the deal go through, that cash and energy mean that Sprint won’t need to hunt for vendors or investors to underwrite an ambitious, just-begun plan to overhaul its antennas and infrastructure for expanding 4G service.

The deal might make enough cash handy for Sprint that it could buy Clearwire Corp. — which it now owns slightly less than half of — and see its share of radio frequency spectrum instantly grow from paltry to gaudy. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said SoftBank’s flush cash sets the stage for a “significant consolidation opportunity.” A report from one analysis firm speculated Monday that could mean Sprint would look to buy Clearwire, Leap Wireless, MetroPCS or T-Mobile USA.

Sprint might then have the strength to challenge market leader Verizon Wireless and No. 2 AT&T.



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