Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sprint Will Own Most Spectrum of All U.S. Mobile Operators

If the FCC approves the Sprint purchase of the rest of Clearwire it does not already own,  Sprint will be the largest spectrum holder in the United States with an average of just over 200 MHz of spectrum across the country. 

But there's something else important: Sprint will have fewer customers to contend for use of that spectrum. Of the total of 547 MHz of spectrum in use for mobile broadband, Sprint will own more than a third of the spectrum, but serve less than 17 percent of customers.

That means Sprint will have 3.57 MHz of spectrum to support each subscriber, compared to  Verizon, with 1.05 MHz of spectrum available for each customer.

That means Sprint has more freedom to attack the value-price relationship, something many observers are certain Softbank will do, as the owner of Sprint. 

It is virtually certain that mere operating efficiency between SoftBank, Sprint and Clearwire will not make the deal work. More likely is some oblique assault on AT&T and Verizon, not a direct competition using today's value proposition. Softbank is much more a consumer software company than Sprint, Clearwire, AT&T or Verizon. 

If there is a clue to what a SoftBank-owned Sprint might do with the Clearwire assets, that is the place it probably makes sense to look. For those of you who prefer more complicated possibilities, there always is Google.  

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