Carrier Wrap: Sprint expands Spark; Verizon Wireless adds devices


Editor’s Note: Wireless operators are a busy bunch, and as such RCR Wireless News will attempt to gather some of the important announcements that may slip through the cracks from the world’s largest carriers in a weekly wrap-up. Enjoy!

Sprint expanded its Spark network offering to a pair of new markets this week, with customers in Baltimore and Philadelphia now able to officially access the carrier’s higher-speed LTE service. Sprint also said customers in those markets would have access to its HD Voice service in the coming weeks.

Sprint said the Spark service, which was announced last October, was now available in 14 markets, with plans to cover 100 million potential customers by the end of the year. Access to the service requires handsets capable of tapping into Sprint’s 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz LTE services.

The HD Voice service is designed to eliminate background noise on voice calls and provide audio quality superior to wireline connections. Customers on both ends of the call must have compatible handsets and be in markets where the service is available to benefit from the offering.

Verizon Wireless announced plans to add two new devices to its stable, including the new Nokia Lumia Icon and the Google/Asus Nexus 7 tablet. The Windows-powered Nokia smartphone is set to launch on Feb. 20, while the LTE-enabled Nexus 7 would be available beginning Feb. 13.

The Nokia device sports a five-inch screen, 20-megapixel camera and a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor. The device will run $200 with a two-year contract or as part of the Verizon Wireless Edge device payment program.

The Nexus 7 will come ready to connect to Verizon Wireless’ LTE network, with the carrier noting customers that have already purchased a device will be able to connect to LTE services once they download a software update. A 32 gigabyte version of the tablet will retail for $350 from Verizon Wireless, with customers able to purchase that model for $250 for a limited time with a corresponding two-year contract.

–Verizon Wireless parent company Verizon Communications closed on a trio of note offerings designed to help finance its $130 purchase of Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. The notes included $2.4 billion in 2.375% notes due in 2022; $1.7 billion in 3.25% notes due in 2026; and $1.2 billion in 4.75% notes due in 2034. The total value of the offering was close to $5.4 billion.

Verizon said it expects to list the notes on the New York Stock Exchange within 30 days. Underwrites for the offerings included Banco Santander; Credit Suisse Securities (Europe); Deutsche Bank, London Branch; The Royal Bank of Scotland; Lloyds Bank; Mizuho International; CastleOak Securities; Muriel Siebert & Co.; The Williams Capital Group; and Blaylock Robert Van.

The Vodafone transaction consists mostly of cash and shares in Verizon, with Verizon forking over $58.9 billion in cash and $60.2 billion in stock. In addition, Verizon said it will issue $5 billion in notes payable to Vodafone; sell its 23% interest in Vodafone Italy for $3.5 billion, thereby providing Vodafone with full ownership of Vodafone Italy; with the remaining $2.5 billion of the transaction value a combination of “other considerations.” To fund the deal Verizon said it has “entered into a fully executed $61 billion bridge credit agreement” with J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Bank of America and Barclays.

–Regional operator U.S. Cellular said it plans to hire 60 new employees to fill positions throughout Iowa. The carrier conducted a “hiring event” this week at retail stores in Altoona, Ames, Ankeny, Creston, Des Moines, Indianola, Knoxville, Marshalltown, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. Positions available included “greeter, leadership, retail wireless consultant and technical positions.”

–A new report from U.K.-based Real Wireless claims wireless carriers will be slammed with a “perfect storm of commercial and technology challenges in 2014.” Those challenges will include the integration of small cells; planning for “5G” services; balancing spectrum resources across 2G, 3G, LTE and “5G” networks; and dealing with increasing demand for coverage and capacity from consumers.

“While there’s never an easy time to be an operator, technology challenges are increasing in complexity at the same time as financial pressures bite,” explained Simon Saunders, director of technology and co-founder of Real Wireless. “More [capital expenditure]is needed to support data traffic growth, improve coverage and build out 4G, but revenue and [average revenue per user]are under strain – indeed, in Europe the industry has moved ex-growth.”

Additional carrier news can be found on the RCR Wireless News “Carriers” page.

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About Author

Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”