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Sprint thinks its existing wireless spectrum is enough

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 26, 2015
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Phone carriers usually have a voracious appetite for wireless spectrum, and for good reason: they don't want to lose your business because their networks are overloaded or missing coverage. Sprint isn't in a hurry, however. The provider just announced that it's passing on the FCC's upcoming 600MHz auction after determining that its existing airwaves are "sufficient" for its future needs. The goal right now is to improve service on the frequencies that Sprint already has by adding tons of extra cell sites and aggregating bandwidth.

This isn't necessarily a bad idea. Sprint has a ton of spectrum to work with, and the biggest challenge is to make sure you can use those untapped (or poorly tapped) resources. And while Big Yellow is no longer bleeding cash as much as it used to, it could certainly stand to save the billions of dollars it would need to outbid the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

However, passing on the auction is still a big gamble. Sprint is betting that there won't be a big spike in demand that requires more spectrum than it has, or that the lack of 600MHz support won't hobble compatibility or performance down the line. Moreover, there's a concern that Sprint doesn't always make the wisest investments in its own network. Remember how Sprint jumped on WiMAX in order to have 4G data before everyone else, only to regret its decision and spend a lot of time playing catch-up with its LTE-toting rivals? Yeah. History certainly isn't guaranteed to repeat itself, but there is a chance that Sprint could save money now only to lose a lot more down the road.

[Image credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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