Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Another day, another network sharing agreement

Vodafone Ireland and Hutchinson Whampoa (using brand name 3 for their operator in Ireland) are in talks about combining their wireless networks into a joint venture and consolidating the infrastructure to achieve cost savings and better coverage.

This process of operators deciding to share networks have been going on for years, especially in Europe, but have yet to catch on here in the US. Maybe it is time to revisit this issue for the US carriers?

T-Mobile and Sprint have been rumored to have been in talks about network sharing in the past without being able to close the deal. Maybe the departure of T-Mobile CEO Philip Hamm will have a positive effect?

In any case, a network joint venture could dramatically lower the cost structure for both T-Mobile and Sprint as well as make it possible for them to have greater coverage and be able to use the saved resources and increased coverage to develop competitive services to put more pressure on AT&T and Verizon. 

If the smaller US operators do not act soon they will face a similar situation to smartphone handset makers where Apple is sacrificing market share to vacuum the market for profit while  many Android OEMs barely break even or post losses even though the OS has a great market share.

Sprint and T-Mobile are at risk of letting Verizon and AT&T get away with not only market share, but the vast majority of profits. There is no way they can stop this trend if they try to be a "small Verizon/AT&T" and execute similar strategies. They must change the game in order to be able to compete.

Network sharing is the obvious first step. Get over it.

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