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What's going on with Sprint?

Nilay Patel

We first caught wind of Sprint's plans to launch a couple dual-mode CDMA / WiMAX devices under the "Sprint 4G" brand a couple days ago, but we're thinking about it a little more, and we're struck by the carrier's decision to run its 4G services as an MVNO on Clearwire's new Clear network. Sprint's balance sheet is basically upside-down at the moment, so we sort of understand why it's not eager to directly invest in a build-out of 4G infrastructure, but at the end of the day, leasing access to a network for general voice and data services is a totally failed business model -- there's a reason we have an MVNO graveyard. We're not saying Sprint's turning itself into the next Helio, but you just don't see the other major carriers doing things like selling off almost all of their existing towers and then letting a spinoff handle their 4G buildouts. We'd say there's some deep juju going on behind the scenes here, and with company spokespeople saying things like "nothing's off the table," it feels like some radical changes are about to hit Overland Park. We'll see how it shakes down soon enough, we think -- the status quo doesn't seem like it can last much longer.

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