Sprint CEO Hesse: 4G strategy shortly, Clearwire is included

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the company's 4G strategy will be outlined before the middle of the year and the plans include Clearwire in all scenarios.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the company's 4G strategy will be outlined before the middle of the year and the plans include Clearwire in all scenarios.

Hesse's comments Wednesday at the Credit Suisse Convergence Conference came amid Sprint-T-Mobile merger speculation, confusion over the company's network plans and uncertainty about Clearwire, its partner on WiMax 4G services.

In other words, Hesse had a lot of items to knock down.

On the 4G strategy, Hesse said:

What we've said is that we plan to tell a lot more about our 4G strategy before the middle of the year. And the reason for that is we're beginning to implement and spend money on Network Vision in the second half of the year. Boy, it would be good to know what the plan is when we start to make that investment. So, for example, if we're going to put LTE on our spectrum, as we're putting the equipment out there, as the men and women are driving out and going to the cell site and putting it on, it would be less expensive to do that once and also have a plan for how that spectrum's going to be used.

There is a desire to have as much of that nailed down or thought through. And the driver is really, as we go out start making these investments, it's -- we're going to get a better return on that investment to the extent we've really thought through how we want to architect the network, what we want to put on what frequency bands and what have you. So, that's also why you hear me say by the middle of the year, you'll be hearing more, because that's why we want to know more. We'll have a better feel for it.

On Clearwire's role in the 4G strategy:

In every option that we're looking at, every one includes WiMAX and Clearwire, both. We've built -- so, everybody knows that Clearwire is out there testing, for example, LTE. We're out there testing LTE. The question is, as we build out additional markets, do you put, if you will, a WiMAX and LTE capability in your devices so your 4G is a combination of the two, is it, if you will, dual mode 4G?

We could add LTE to our network, and Clearwire's thinking of LTE. Does that mean -- when I say LTE, does that mean not Clearwire? No, they're two totally different concepts. And does LTE mean no WiMAX? No, it doesn't meant that at all, couldn't be further from the truth.

On the urge to merge and whether Sprint needs to bulk up, Hesse said:

You look at almost any industry -- Apple's used often. They're not nearly the biggest cell phone producer, not nearly the biggest computer producer, etc. But, people always say that's a pretty darn good company. Southwest Airlines in the airline business - you go right down the list. You don't have to be the biggest to be the best and to perform very well.

It's kind of interesting where here you are, you're a $36 billion company, you have 50 million customers and people ask you are you big enough. And different industries are of different -- are different sizes. And that's a question perhaps to consider at some point in time. But, I -- but, once we do those things, I think -- as -- the brand, the network, and have a good spectrum path, I think we do have a very strong set of assets.

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