Sprint will provide rural carriers access to airwaves

03/27/2014 4:26 PM

03/27/2014 4:26 PM

Masayoshi Son’s Sprint Corp. is offering rural mobile carriers help on network investment as the billionaire continues to lobby for support for a possible combination with T-Mobile US Inc.

In an agreement with the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents smaller mobile providers, Overland Park-based Sprint agreed to provide access to its airwaves, letting rural carriers focus on improving their own networks rather than expanding coverage. The partnership is designed for areas underserved by high-speed Internet, Son said Thursday at a trade show in San Antonio.

The deal will help boost competition in the U.S. market, which is dominated by the “duopoly” of Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., Son said.

“Let’s fight back! Let’s fight back!” he said as he ended his presentation.

Son is president of Tokyo-based wireless provider SoftBank Corp., which bought control last year of Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier. Regulators have greeted his ambition to buy T-Mobile with skepticism, and Son has responded by reframing his argument to say he can improve U.S. wireless broadband availability and speed.

“Every American, regardless of where they live or work, should have access to high-speed mobile broadband,” Son said in a statement.

Sprint shares jumped more than 4 percent Thursday morning after Son’s remarks and closed up 3.3 percent, 30 cents a share, at $9.27. T-Mobile closed up 0.9 percent, 29 cents a share, at $32.30.

Under the agreement with the carriers association, small carriers’ customers can roam on Sprint’s nationwide network. The rural providers will be able to build out high-speed fourth-generation capacity, and Sprint customers can use small carriers’ newly improved airwaves, Son said. The new long-term evolution, or LTE, technology being developed by SoftBank and Sprint will deliver speeds 10 times faster than rural residents get today, Son said.

“We’re going to see small carriers building out networks” offering high-speed coverage, said Steven Berry, president of the carriers association, a Washington-based trade group.

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