Earlier this year, the government spent a lot of time convincing TV broadcasters to give up wireless spectrum to cell carriers, who forked over a lot of money for those airwaves. The wireless networks are expected to shell out even more money for more spectrum at the beginning of next year.
Sprint, the fourth-place carrier among the United States’ big four, says it won’t be participating in that auction. In a statement issued Saturday, CEO Marcelo Claure said that “Sprint’s focus and overarching imperative must be on improving its network and market position in the immediate term.”
The auction, which is run by the Federal Communications Commission, is widely viewed as one of the biggest opportunities in years for mobile carriers. However, Sprint, thanks to its 2012 Clearwire acquisition, already has a fair bit of excess spectrum. And the company isn’t exactly flush with cash, because it’s spending heavily to attract new customers; for example, Sprint is heavily marking down new the iPhone 6s by offering customers a $1-a-month leasing plan.
In the statement, Sprint said that it has already “started a major effort to increase coverage and capacity by densifying its network, and increasing the number of cell sites using its existing spectrum.”
“Sprint is already deploying new technologies, such as carrier aggregation, that unlock the potential of its strong 2.5 GHz position,” the statement added.
Does this mean Sprint is tempering its ambition? At the Code Conference in May, Claure said that consumers should expect to see Sprint with the No. 1 U.S. network within 18 to 24 months. So, no, probably not.
Update: T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who likes beating up on Sprint on Twitter (as does Claure on T-Mobile), thinks Sprint isn’t participating for a different set of reasons. Also, the Masa to whom Legere is referring is Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint proprietor SoftBank.