Sprint on Sprint

Mike Jude, Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan
05 Jul 2010

At Sprint's recent analyst conference, the carrier said it plans to push its first-to-market 4G Wimax network, its slick new EVO 4G smartphone and improved wireless customer service to continue its gains on customer satisfaction issues.

The tone of Sprint's recent annual analyst conference was definitely upbeat, reflecting the telecom carrier's feeling that it is starting to turn the corner on issues of wireless customer service, satisfaction and trust.

The company shared metrics that it said show a significant year-over-year increase in customer satisfaction, including a bump of nearly 35% among subscribers who had previously been the least satisfied with their service. CEO Dan Hesse said Sprint's new "simplicity, value, network" mantra will consistently frame its efforts going forward.

But Sprint also admitted that it has a long way to go. In particular, Sprint's subscriber base continues to decline, albeit at a reduced rate year-over-year. Also, while its focus has been to approach the market with new phone instruments on a routine basis, Sprint is very frank that the company is essentially playing a game of containment when it comes to the Apple iPhone, providing customers with instruments that, while not as glitzy as the Apple devices, remain superior to most other devices on the market.

Sprint offered an example of its strategy with the introduction of the new HTC EVO 4G smartphone. The EVO 4G is a dual-mode phone that defaults to 3G but can utilize the Wimax network where it is available. Featuring a high-resolution touch-screen and the capability to export HD-quality video to an external video monitor, the EVO 4G raises the bar for what a phone should be able to do, though it arguably pales in comparison to the new iPhone. Nevertheless, the EVO 4G provides cutting-edge technology to Sprint subscribers in a form that is very competitive with the best devices now available.

One bone of contention in the analyst session was Sprint's dependence on Clearwire's 4G Wimax network deployment. Although 4G is now available in 32 markets, with more coming, it is not yet ubiquitous, and where it is available, coverage can be uncertain. Sprint is counting on a first-to-market position to drive demand, yet the spotty coverage that still characterizes its 4G Wimax network may serve as a source of serious discontent for consumers who adopt the service early.

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