Sprint Chairman Pushes for Wireless Consolidation

by Matt Klassen on March 5, 2014

While regulatory officials have made no bones about their opposition to a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, Masayoshi Son, the head of SoftBank and chairman of Sprint, is heading to Washington to present his case for consolidating the American wireless market, and you can be sure Mr. Son won’t take no for an answer…at least not without a fight.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, “the indefatigable Son now plans to appeal directly to the U.S. business community and policy makers to convince them that consolidation in the U.S. telecommunications industry would be a good thing,” a necessary step for both the third and fourth largest national carriers to be able to compete with the AT&T and Verizon duopoly.

In fact, as Son has often said, the American wireless market is in shambles, offering some of the worst network performance in the developed world, and the AT&T/Verizon duopoly is fundamentally the reason things won’t get any better. Simply put, if Sprint is to be involved in improving America’s wireless infrastructure, consolidation is the only way forward.

According to an email invitation sent earlier this week, Son plans to make a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce in Washingtonon March 11th, covering the state of America’s wireless industry, how it fares against global competition, and how ultra-fast wireless broadband can help drive forward innovation, commerce, and education in the country.

While the invitation says nothing explicitly about T-Mobile or any possible merger going forward, you can be sure that everything Son is doing here is with that possible merger in mind. Truthfully its not a bad plan: show Washington just how bad the American wireless industry is compared to its global counterparts and then show Washington just what you can do about it.

But these are American lawmakers we’re talking about here, slaves to the almighty lobbyist, so while Son’s efforts to explain the need for further consolidation in the wireless industry to truly spur innovation and advancement are likely accurate, the simple truth is that AT&T and Verizon have a myriad of voices on Capitol Hill; forked tongues whispering into the ears of easily swayable bureaucrats.

In fact, preliminary meetings regarding consolidation in the wireless market have already been met with hefty amounts of scepticism and doubt, with lawmakers and regulatory bodies, including the Federal Communications Commission, already indicating that any such overtures on Sprint’s part towards acquiring T-Mobile will likely be met with resistance and ultimate refusal.

If you’re thinking that Son may be just wasting his time trying to push for market consolidation while regulators already seem dead set against it, well you don’t know Son. As the WSJ explains, this is not the first time the Softbank CEO has tangled with regulatory officials. “His skirmish with Japanese regulators in 2001 prodded telecom giant Nippon Telegraph & Telephone to lease optical-fiber lines to SoftBank and resulted in a broadband revolution that madeJapan’s high-speed Internet network one of the fastest and cheapest in the world.”

Now if nothing else Son’s efforts are a worthy attempt to enlighten the American public as to the state of their wireless industry, one that is dominated by an ironclad duopoly that is content to overcharge its customers for some of the worst wireless service in the developed world. If Son is able to effectively communicate that, consider his trip to Washington “mission accomplished”.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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