Is Sprint Beating a Dead Horse?

In an article published in the Halloween edition of the Kansas City Star, Dan Hesse, the CEO of Sprint Nextel and its latest TV spokesperson said that Sprint would hand on Nextel and “rejuvenate this important asset.”

Well, having paid $38B to acquire Nextel, and having written down ‘goodwill’ of $30B of that purchase amount in January 2008, it seems like rejuvenation is either a great idea or a pipe dream.

My question is, ‘Is it really possible to rejuvenate a dead horse?’

Hesse’s argument is that “[t]he iDEN network is a key
differentiator for Sprint as it allows us to offer products and
services no other carrier in the industry can match.”

Okay, it’s fine to offer the ‘different’ products and services, but since the customers don’t seem to care or want them as much as Sprint Nextel wants to sell them, where’s the growth potential.  As for other carriers not being able offering matching products and services, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless might beg to differ.

Is Nextel a cellular-like company, or is it a walkie-talkie service?  It doens’t appear that it can be both, or that anyone cares.

That’s my opinion.


PS: For a link to the Sprint Nextel news release underlying the KCS star story, click here.


So, you don’t like your wireless store sales clerk?

J.D. Power and Associates has released their 2008 report on consumer satisfaction with wireless retail sales.  It turns out that if you’re with Verizon or its newly purchased (consumed?) Alltel unit, then you’re

JD Power 2008 Wireless Retail Sales Satisfaction Survey

among the happiest customers.  It’s another story altogether if you have Sprint Nextel.

But look closely at the scale: On the 1,000 point scale, Verizon/Alltel barely squeaked into the bottom of what would be called a “C” grade in school, and the industry averaged a high “D”.

Perhaps that why customers keep asking, “Can you hear me, now?”  “Huh?”

So, while Verizon may take the trophy for best in show, it was the prettiest mutt amongst a bunch of really mangy critters.


Verizon’s cost to build a modern MTSO: $31M

While individual cell sites cost somewhere in the range of $250,000 to $400,000 to construct, it’s interesting to learn the cost of building a new Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTS0).  Thanks to Verizon Wireless for helping to illuminate the answer.

Verizon Wireless Completes $31 Million Investment In New Omaha Network Facility


OMAHA, NE — Verizon Wireless announced today it has completed the company’s new Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) in Omaha. The MTSO, which represents a $31 million investment, processes all Verizon Wireless calls and data transmissions within eastern Nebraska and portions of western Iowa. Construction on the facility started in the fall of 2006, and full operation of the new switch will begin this month.

The switching center, which is housed in a 26,000-square-foot building, is a large digital computer center that controls all aspects of wireless calls and data applications. Currently the Omaha MTSO handles more than 4 million data connections and 2 million voice calls a month. The new facility has room to expand for projected increases in voice and data network capacity for the next 25 years.

Verizon Wireless’ network capacity requirements increase each year as the company grows its customer base and offers increasingly sophisticated wireless products and services such as navigation systems, multimedia services and Internet access.

“This new MTSO prepares our network for a substantial increase in usage by our existing and new customers,” said Brian Mecum, executive director of network – Great Plains region, Verizon Wireless. “This state-of-the-art facility also brings the latest wireless technology to Nebraska and western Iowa.”

Redundancy is built into the MTSO facility for reliability in the event of an unplanned event or power outage. Within 15 seconds of a power loss to the facility, the MTSO’s generator assumes the network power needs with no interruption to customers’ service.

The 1.5 megawatt diesel generator is stocked with 10,000 gallons of fuel that can provide days of uninterrupted service. The MTSO is also equipped with enough back-up battery power to keep the building operational for an additional eight hours, giving Verizon Wireless’ network team ample time to refuel and maintain the generator and continue providing customers with uninterrupted service. The MTSO also houses 262 tons of air conditioners needed to cool the entire system.

“As the backbone of our wireless network, this MTSO ensures that Verizon Wireless has the capacity to accommodate our customer needs — both in times of normalcy and in the event of an emergency or natural disaster,” Mecum said. “We are committed to delivering the most reliable wireless network, and the redundancy features that are built-in throughout our network system help us do just that.”

This new MTSO is part of Verizon Wireless’ continuous effort to augment the quality of its wireless voice and data network in Nebraska and across the country. Verizon Wireless has invested more than $45 billion since it was formed — more than $5.5 billion on average every year — to increase the coverage and capacity of its national network and to add new services. From January 2005 through September 2008, more than $95 million of this investment were spent in Nebraska on network improvements.


More on T-Mobile’s Midnight Site Construction in Northern California

In my previous posting I discussed the CPUC’s investigation into claims that T-Mobile has constructed new sites in Northern California without benefit of, well, local government permits.

In yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle appeared an article by Seth Rosenfeld titled, “T-Mobile accused of installation violations” which digs into the allegations by five former T-Mobile contractor employees who all assert that they constructed or knew of T-Mobile sites without all proper local government permits.

From yesterday’s article:

Among the subcontractors was Lee Middleton, who said he worked for Irvine’s Delta Groups Engineering Inc. Earlier this year, Middleton was assigned to review records for about 1,033 T-Mobile sites around the Bay Area. “Way more than half” were missing documentation showing that the work had been done properly, he said in an interview.

Local government permitting of wireless sites is intended by Congress to ensure that local codes and other local considerations such as aesthetics are evaluated and approved, subject to some balancing tests created by federal courts.

While the focus is on T-Mobile right now, it’s not a stretch to suspect that the practice of putting up sites without all permits in place is not limited to that one company.  This is likely to be just an iceberg tip.


PS: Thanks to Robert E. Smith of Anvil Parnters, LLC for the pointer to the current SF Chronicle article.


Thinking about Sprint v. County of San Diego

By now many/most/all? of you know that on September 11th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Sprint Telephony PCS, L. P. v. County of San Diego case.  The court held 11-0 that the ‘Auburn’ decision standard announced by the same court eight years ago was wrong, and reversed itself.

The now-discredited Auburn permitted a telecom carrier to facially attack a zoning ordinance.  A facial attack is one where the underlying facts of a particular case don’t really matter.  The court only looks at the face of the ordinance.  As applied to telecom ordinances, the Auburn facial attack meant that if a court could read an ordinance on its face and find that it may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting telecom service in a community, the court would strike down the law.  The facts giving rise to the court challenge were, frankly, irrevelant.

In most court cases, the courts look at a law “as-applied” (in a particular case and with a particular set of facts) to determine whether it is legal.  Facial attacks, such as those that were applied using the Auburn standard, never get to the facts as applied.

As the en banc panel of the 9th Circuit found, and as Judge Graber wrote (in small part) for the entire panel:

We find persuasive the Eighth Circuit’s and district courts’ critique of Auburn. Section 253(a) provides that “[n]o State or local statute or regulation . . . may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting. . . provision of . . . telecommunications service.” In context, it is clear that Congress’ use of the word “may” works in tandem with the negative modifier“[n]o” to convey the meaning that “state and local regulations shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting telecommunications service.” Our previous interpretation of the word “may” as meaning “might possibly” is incorrect. We therefore overrule Auburn and join the Eighth Circuit in holding that “a plaintiff suing a municipality under section 253(a) must show actual or effective prohibition, rather than the mere possibility of prohibition.”

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Please click here to download the full decision.
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I expect that Sprint will ask the Supreme Court to grant certiorari, and I also expect that the request will not be successful. Ultimately, I believe this ruling will mark a return to (more) common sense in wireless siting cases and hearings.