Russ McGuire Provides a View From Sprint

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Towards the end of last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Russ McGuire of Sprint.

You can download it as a 96kbps MP3 here (32 meg, 47 minutes).

Additionally the full transcript is below. To distinguish between us I've indented Irv.


Transcript

Hi Russ, how are you?

I'm doing great, Lee.  How are you?

Well, I'm a little bit tired, as usual, but I'm on coffee number twelve.  I have six more to go before the day is out.  So it's just a normal day, here.  They say that the candle that burns brightest goes out the quickest, so I'm sure these eighteen cups a day is not going to give me the greatest longevity. 

Jumping into some questions I have for you, and before I begin, I would like to say I really appreciate you giving me your time and appreciate you giving me a Sprint perspective.  It means a lot to me to hear what carriers are saying.

On that note, you are Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Sprint.  Could you describe what you do in that role?

Sure, mostly I manage a team of brilliant people who make me look smart. 

That's fantastic.  That's what we all want.

What we do together, as a team, really breaks down into three different types of activities.  On one hand, we own industry analysis for the company.  We manage the portfolio of secondary research that informs our view of where the industry is going.  We take that and form it into perspectives on key topics and key competitor activities.  That feeds into our overall strategic insight, into what's happening and what's impacting us from an external perspective.

The second activity that my team leads is the strategic planning activity across the company, engaging with the leadership team of the company, to understand what those forces are, both internal and external, that are shaping the future and driving from that, what are our key strategies, what are the operational plans we need to develop around those strategies.

And all of these work together in important ways; the third is really wrestling with key strategic questions and leading the cross-functional project work to wrestle those questions to the ground and to set directions for the company on those key topics.  It's interesting work and certainly, a fun place to be.

I'm sure you are going to get a lot of input from the conference in March, from the Emerging Communications Conference.  I would like to ask why you are speaking at the Emerging Communications Conference, this coming March?

Probably the main reason that I'm speaking is so that I have a reason to be there.  I think it's going to be a great place to be.  I love being around people who know a lot of stuff that I don't know, have experienced a lot of things, are experiencing a lot of things that I can't experience, and sharing within that community, understanding where everyone is coming from, and learning from the perspectives that people have. 

The most important thing for me is to be there, to participate, to listen, to learn, to exchange, and to interact.  That is critical.  I can't imagine looking at just the group of speakers, not to mention the people who are going to be attending but won't be on the agenda.  I can't imagine another place or time, this year, where I will have the opportunity to engage with that type of group. 

Your question was why am I speaking.  That's my selfish reason; it gives me an excuse to be there.  I also see that audience as clearly an influential audience within the industry.  We, at Sprint, certainly want to be changing the way the industry operates.  We aren't happy with the way the industry operates.  We don't think it is best serving the customers' needs.  We don't think it's best serving the needs of society, as a whole.  Having the opportunity to have a platform and to share some of our perspectives on how things need to change, and what the opportunities are as we work together as an ecosystem is a great opportunity, as well.

That was quite a surprising answer, to me at least.  I expected something far less exciting.  That leads me on to throw in a question very dear to my heart, which is; do you think telecom operators have been far too slow in terms of innovation?

Oh, why would you say that, Lee?  [Laughter]

Why, yeah, I didn't know if I was allowed to say that was my opinion.  I tried to ask it impartially.

You've worked with enough of us carriers, over the years, so I know why you are asking the question.  The answer obviously is yes. 

Of course, and actually, I can even go on record and say that I've only ever earned money, my entire career, from carriers or vendors to them.  At the same time, I have certain sentiment when it comes to innovation.  I will leave that question to you.

To come back to your question a little bit differently; I came to Sprint a little over five years ago.  As I was thinking about the next step in my career, I looked at Sprint and saw something somewhat unique, which is that Sprint is a big enough player in the industry that we have the opportunity to impact how things happen.  But at the same time, Sprint has a strong heritage of innovation.  I believe we still, even today, and in the challenging times that we face, are much more innovative than most carriers are.  All that being said, the types of innovation that carriers can implement, or that carriers, by their nature implement, is nothing compared to the kinds of innovation that I think will be the focus of discussion at eComm.

Obviously, you're going to answer yes, here, but I want to ask; do you feel that Sprint is committed to innovation?  If Sprint is committed to innovation, can you shed some light on how this is going to happen?  I'm sure many of us feel frustrated at the lack of innovation because we are still playing voice mail, every day, voice mail tag, and so forth.  I personally know the way we communicate, especially by telephony, is highly inefficient.  Generally, how do you feel or what is it that gives you the belief that Sprint is going to be a driver of innovation?

I think the most important thing to realize is that carriers can't possibly innovate enough.  I do expect that Sprint will continue to innovate.  When I think about the things we introduced in 2008, that I would call innovative, they are not all technology centered.  We introduced Simply Everything as a pricing plan that allows people to not worry about their monthly bill, but to enjoy the full power of mobility. 

We introduced Ready Now; these are not technology things.  Ready Now is just the simple thought of when a customer buys a new cell phone, train them how to do everything on it that it is possible to do.  That's not the way the industry operates.  It was an innovation by Sprint.  It impacts the overall ecosystem and creates opportunity for everyone.

We also introduced some new technology-oriented things.  One is Titan, which is a Java development platform.  It is very liberating to developers.  It doesn't force them into J2ME constrained, limited view of Java, but rather enables traditional desktop Java applications to be brought to the mobile platform.

We also had innovated around the user interface with the one-click user interface.  It takes feature phones and makes them as easy to enjoy the full power of mobility as what smart phones are beginning to deliver.

There are a lot of things that we have introduced, as innovation, and I expect that will continue, going forward.  There is no reason to think it wouldn't.  But that is still not enough.  The real innovation is going to happen by freeing brilliant people, outside the company, to do the things that excite them and incent them to bring new power and capabilities to our customers, our subscribers, at the end of the day.

Sprint has been, for at least eight years, the most supportive of third-party developers in the mobile space.  We just held our eighth annual Application Developers Conference.  When I sit down with developers, they say, "Sprint has always been the best carrier to develop new applications for."  We've been very supportive of third-party device manufacturers in bringing new devices to the Sprint platform.  They are somewhere north of 220 different non-Sprint branded devices that have been certified for our network.  We've been very supportive of new business models, like the Amazon Kindle, new ways of leveraging our wireless networks to create new value for in-customers. 

It is not about the innovation that carriers can do; it's really about the innovation that we can enable or at least free developers to bring to market because we get out of their way, as much as possible.

Just on that topic and these questions are not scripted, on that topic you see how wonderful Apple has done with the App Store for the iPhone.  You also have Google's Marketplace, although it hasn't had any of the success yet, of the App Store.  To me, these make it very easy for a developer to get onto handsets.  I'm not aware of Sprint having anything that even approaches that.  When you say it is open to developers, I wonder if you can clarify what you mean.  Can a fifteen-year old kid easily get their application onto Sprint phones?

That's a great question.  We have to think about it in terms of two different worlds in which things operate.  One world is the feature phone world and the other world is the smart phone world.  Clearly, what we've seen in the last year or so is an acceleration of the support for developers of the smart phone space, with Apple clearly setting the pace. 

There is support for developers, from an API perspective.  More importantly to your point, there is support from a bringing to market.  Having visibility in the App Store or the Marketplace is great.  Sprint is very supportive of that.  Sprint has been on the leading edge of knocking down the walls so that any website can be visited.

For years, if you developed for the Palm platform or for Windows Mobile or for the BlackBerry, Sprint has been wide open, in terms of customers finding the applications that can run on those devices and installing them on those smart phone devices.

Our participation in the whole Android, open handset alliance ecosystem is an aspect of how we're supporting that, our work with Palm on the Palm Pre and what they're bringing to market as an application environment for that are examples of us being very supportive of the activities that are already happening in the smart phone space.

What is it that Sprint actually offers developers today?  Do they have a network API?  The buzzword, at the moment, is NaaS (Network as a Service).

We have a full application developers program that includes the providing of development tools and access to API's.  Sprint really, as you know and I imagine most of the folks tuning into this interview will know, is a combination of Sprint and Nextel.  Both on the Sprint side and on the Nextel side, we're very supportive of developers leveraging the full capabilities.  Nextel was the first to allow full access to the GPS capabilities on the handset, which brought to market, very early and very rapidly, a lot of really powerful applications, especially for the business marketplace.  The first piece is just core tools for the developer. 

The second piece, then, is within the application developers program, different levels of support from a business perspective.  In some cases, we will sell the application through our channels, bill on behalf of the software provider, provide the first level of customer support for the application developer, and really treat that customer as our customer for the application.  At other levels, those applications being in the catalog of available applications are being certified to run on our network and our devices.

I must admit, I'm not familiar with or haven't even heard of Sprint having any kind of developer program.

We've had it for close to ten years.  There are thousands of developers who participate in our application developers program.  Most of the activity is on the feature phone side. 

It's just a bit strange.  Are you saying that Sprint has network API's or are you just talking about some help with some handset software?  Vodafone has Betavine.  The BT has their 21CN API.  Orange has - I can't remember the name of it.  Are you saying that Sprint has a network API or just some general thing to help people put some applications on handsets?

It's both.  We have API's that are handset based.  In the location space, it's easy to talk about it in terms of user-plane versus control-plane.  We have user-plane support for location, for example, as one of the API's where you can tap into the GPS chips that are in the handset.  We provide support for that - documentation, testing services, etc. 

We also have control-plane implementations of location and other API's.  The most well established and robust version of that is what we call the "Business Mobility Framework."  I'm not the technical expert from a software/development perspective, but it's the web services architecture that is a network API for leveraging information like location, presence, etc.

Okay, you mentioned the word business there, which probably means it's cut off from most people.  I'm just not aware of even being able to get location from a Sprint phone.  At minimum, it would be nice; I would almost say essential.  It seems years of waiting that for any given telephone number to retrieve the location. 

But I'm not aware of any operators even offering something as simple as location being available.  It amazes me.  Do you have any idea why something as simple as location has not been made available?  It could massively change search results, how we use the Web, and how we connect to others.  Location would be incredibly useful but even that we don't seem to be getting.

Sprint has been providing location information for applications for a long time.  TeleNav is a company that is well established in the mobile space.  I've spent some time with the CEO of TeleNav.  He started his business because Nextel allowed access to the GPS location on the handset.  For example, for years, it was only Nextel handsets that TeleNav ran on. 

Loopt is a company you may be familiar with.  Loopt is a company that obviously is leveraging the location information of subscribers and providing a service that is highly valuable.  Loopt started with Sprint because Sprint was the most supportive of making location information available to developers.

Within that, I think the biggest reason why location information is hard to get, from a development perspective, is because of the critical need to manage the privacy and security of subscriber information.  Obviously, there are ways you can overcome that.  Working with companies like TeleNav and Loopt, we figured out the way to make incredibly powerful applications available to our subscribers while being very sensitive to their privacy needs.

Let me give you some examples on the location front.  You see many people updating their Facebook status with their location, or you will see people tweeting it.  Does it not strike you as absolutely ridiculous that your cell phone knows your location but you are having to manually go through a lot of online social tools, and manually update it or put your location in your Skype metapresence field?  You are having to go around these services manually and you forget to update them, yet the device in your pocket knows it.  The network, from the carrier, knows it.  Why can't you give permission between Facebook and the HLR to share that location information, even pay a fee, per year, to Sprint, on top of your bill just so you don't have to manually keep telling other people your location?

I totally agree; that is part of our vision.  One of the things that was recently introduced by Sprint, it's not developed by Sprint but it's a partnership, is NextMail Locator.  This is the integration of location information into a messaging application.  When a message is sent, your location is automatically integrated into that message.  If you think about that, from a Facebook or social application perspective, it's less than half a step from sending that message, such as my status, and having within that the location information for where I am, and all of that being automated.

It's just a shame that you're having to send a message.  It's a shame that Facebook or Twitter, or any other such site, cannot be linked to your phone number and have this auto-updated.  It seems so basic, and yet so useful, and something which people would pay money for.  Again, it just strikes me as one of these oddities of everyday life, that we're so blind to other's location.  Online, we are just manually having to type it in a keyboard.

Yes, that sounds like a great opportunity for some entrepreneur. 

I just happen to feel it's operators who are blocking it.  They have the location.  I get the impression they don't want to open up the information HLR and work with the likes of Facebook.  I could be wrong, but there is something stuck in this system, somewhere.

How is Loopt doing it, then?

I assume Loopt is looking on the handset for GPS, as an assumption, instead of doing it networked based.  Or, they have cut a deal with a carrier to do it networked based.  I haven't looked at Loopt, but I looked at what Loopt is doing.  It could well be GPS based.

I would say we are working with a lot of developers who are using network based location information, again, that's control-plane as opposed to user-plane.  They are building that into their applications.  Many of those tend to be more business oriented, so for years we've supported business applications that are pulling in location information from employees.  Sometimes that is control-plane, so network based.  Sometimes it's user-plane, so device based.  We certainly aren't opposed to developers leveraging that.  That's what we've built into our architecture.

Just building on that, one of the absurdities I noticed with telephone calls is that a lot of the content of the call is actually to manually exchange location data.  "Where are you?"  I think it was last year; in particular, I would place five calls a day to my teenage daughter.  Four out of the five calls a day were just to ask, "Where are you?"  Does that not strike you as odd, to be using telephony just to manually exchange location data?

I don't know if you're familiar with the Family Locator Service from Sprint.

I saw such things on other networks, like Disney Mobile, for example, back in 2006.  You would have to pay like 40 pence in the UK.  It would bring you back a map.  It would ping the other person, i.e. my daughter in this case, and say, "Do you give permission," for each and every request.  It just cost so much money.  I just can't understand why we don't have location in there. 

The reason I stay on that topic is I can't help having this feeling that if we can't get something as basic as location, which is in the network today, out there to innovators to build with and create value and co-create value with carriers, then I seem to lack hope for many other things.  Surely, location is a basic thing.

One of the things we've done to try to accelerate that innovation is we're working to try to make location information more available to developers.  I'm looking to see what we've announced and what we haven't.  In November, we announced relationships with two platform enablers, Where and Wavemarket, so that third-party developers can create location-enabled applications for our customers. 

This is "get the carrier out of the way," and we've picked, for now, two of these.  You may think of them as aggregators that can work at the speed that entrepreneurs work as opposed to the speed that carriers work to enable more and more applications, specifically to address and leverage location.

What are their names?

Where and Wavemarket.

It will be interesting to find out what it is they're offering. 

The other thing with telephone calls - so pardon this manual exchange of location data, you must notice that when you make calls - and I'm probably really leading you off track from what we're meant to be discussing - is that when we're on calls to credit card companies or any other company, really, who we have an account with, you have to manually exchange your name, your address, customer number, billing information, and so on. 

People get your fax numbers wrong when you tell them.  You have to repeat your name many times.  Classically, with me, I'm saying "Dryburgh" and for "D," they're mixing it with "B."  They're mixing the "b" with a "d."  Everyday, it's the same rigmarole going on, of trying to convey my surname, repeating my address, repeating credit card numbers.  They get it wrong; payments don't go through, etc. 

This is fixed stuff.  The operator knows my name and my address, and may even have my billing information.  Why can't I push a button, today, to release it?  I'm not saying you're the god of telecoms, with all the answers, but because you represent a carrier, I just wonder if you go through the same frustration as myself along with everybody else and why can't we innovate past these manual exchanges of billing data and repeating names to people?

That's a great point.  I think our vision is well aligned with your vision.  What we do see, especially in mobility, is a mobile phone really is a personal thing.  It's not my family's phone number; it's my phone number.  It's not my company's phone; it's my phone.  It's me; it's not this group entity.  That individuality is an important aspect.  There is a lot that the carrier knows explicitly because you've told us.  There are things we know implicitly because we can observe how you use your cell phone and your mobile device, more than your cell phone.  It's also, what you're doing from a messaging perspective or from a Web usage or application usage.  Those are things we can observe.  That gets a little bit scary, too. 

The way I describe it is that everything we know about you is a great treasure.  We need to be good stewards of that treasure.  Being good stewards has an aspect, which says, "Protect it, defend it, and don't treat it lightly.  Don't waste it."  On the other hand, there is the part of being a good steward, which is to maximize the value to you, as our subscriber of that information we have.  What you just described is a great example of how we should leverage what you have entrusted us with, whether you wanted to or not...

Or, push hash 5 if a call center asks, "What is your credit card number," or "What is your name."  Push hash 1 and it releases your name and address digitally. 

That is an opportunity that we need to figure out.  We need to figure it out in a way that best serves you as the customer, but also best serves you by creating value by working with other developers and innovators.

Okay, it wasn't meant to be an interview where I tell you my bright ideas, but I can't help but say one more thing.  The pattern of your calls - your calls are what has been called, the last couple of years, your "social graph."  From the pattern of your calls, you can even begin to deduce the type of relationship, like family, because it's usually calls post 6:00 p.m., and duration is quite long, etc.  Operators know your social graph.

Again, there seems to be no way of tying those ID's and helping tie them to the likes of Facebook, and so on, or vice versa; trying to drive Facebook contacts into phone calls.  You must feel there is a massive sea of opportunity, even just in the first thing that comes to my mind that is just not being tapped here.

Absolutely, it's not an area that we're blind to; it's an area where we have done some research so we have a sense of the opportunity.  I think part of it comes back to basic principles of should the carrier, should Sprint be chasing all of those opportunities?  Probably not because we will guess wrong.  We probably don't have the right mentality.  Maybe it's kind of a VC mentality.  We can't afford to bet on a hundred different ideas and hope that one or two of them succeed. 

Instead, our approach is to enable others to leverage what it is that we have that makes that possible.  Doing it within the constraints of protecting the privacy of our subscribers and being good stewards of that, but enable innovation so that a lot of people with great ideas ,such as what you've just described, as well as many others, can innovate leveraging the unique capabilities that the carrier brings to the table.

You must notice, every day, that when you call people and go to voice mail - this is occurring most of the time because you can't have pre-call instant messaging, for example, and use instant message as what Martin [Martin Geddes] would have called your "rendezvous".  You can't have this wrapper around your calls to signal each other, instant messaging.

Does it not frustrate you that we don't have instant messaging between mobile handsets?

I think it's a richer concept.  I think you're implying a richer concept than just instant messaging.  The core...

I feel if we had instant messaging between every mobile handset on the planet, the volume of calls would drastically shrink, especially calls to where you are, etc.  I just don't understand why we don't have instant messaging between handsets.  Everybody wants that but we're forced, again, through dialing numbers and ringing and so on.

We certainly have text messaging, which I think people use in the way that you are describing.  When I think of it, it works very similar to instant messaging.  I think the piece that is clearly missing from text messaging is presence.  I think that presence plus location plus additional information we could know, such as signal strength, battery strength, or other pieces that could factor into the application you are describing.

Just to move this on a bit now, I think I can summarize and you can hear the honesty in me, that I think I could write a book on how frustrated and unhappy I am with what I feel is a lack of innovation and how things are broken.  I feel I could talk for some time about how things are broken. 

I believe you are seeing opportunities in the mobile space.  Is that correct, in terms of innovation and in particular, do you feel that things have changed in the mobile market the last couple of years, which will help foster innovation?

Yes, absolutely and I think, getting back to core principles, there has been a lack of innovation.  There are two ways to solve that.  One way is for the carriers who control the critical pieces, to be the ones to innovate.  I think your career in telecom and my career in telecom, most of my time spent working for carriers, would tell us that if we're dependent on the carriers to innovate, maybe the pace picks up but certainly not to the level it needs to.

The second approach is the approach that I believe is the right approach, which is carriers give the freedom to true innovators to innovate, to leverage the capabilities that we have, to unlock that, to make that available in a way they can build businesses around it.

The debut eComm conference in March 2008 was the first conference to cover the iPhone and Android.  It's quite exciting what this one is going to cover, in March, and hopefully it will be a first in many ways.  When it comes to the 2008 one, I realized something was new when that debut was put together.  We were the first to cover iPhone, Android, mentioned 700 MHz, open networks, open platforms, and open mobile.  Now, others have kind of come into that space that we identified.

On the front of open mobile, do you feel that openness actually has any meaning?  That is a topic dear to me, lately, because everybody is using the word "open" now and "openness."  It's kind of been leapt on by PR.  I want to ask you about openness.  What is meant by it and does it have meaning?

Openness has a lot of meaning.  The problem is that it has different meanings for everybody.  The phrase that I prefer is "freedom."  Why does anybody want openness?  If it comes right down to it, what they really want is freedom.  From an end-user perspective, what they want is the freedom to do, with their mobile device in this case, what it is they want to do.  "Don't tell me I can't do that; just give me the freedom to do what I want to do". 

From a developer perspective, it's the same thing.  It's "I want to be able to develop without having to ask permission or without having to live within the constraints that you, carrier, or you, device manufacturer have placed on me.  Get out of my way; give me the freedom to build my business around the innovation that's possible on this platform."

Freedom, to me, is a better term than openness.

Okay so you feel that openness really means freedom.  This freedom, what kind of impact do you see it having, looking forwards?

I think the bigger opportunity is on the developer side.  If we, as carriers, give developers the freedom to pursue their visions, and that freedom comes in the form of giving them access to location, presence, status, and all kinds of aspects of the mobile experience, what can we unleash?  What can we enable them to develop, for their dreams to run wild?  That creates tremendous value for everybody.  We have to do that in a way that includes the freedom for them to build business models that are profitable for them.  We believe that by doing that, it will also be profitable for us.

From an end-user perspective, it's the freedom to enjoy all of that "wowness" that comes out of developers being set free.  It's also the freedom to go to any website, install any software, to use the device of my choice.  It's the freedom to enjoy mobility in the way that makes sense for me.

Operators are seen as the inhibitors of innovation, generally, but in this case, specifically mobile innovation.  I remember just a couple of years ago being locked out from having Wi-Fi on a Trio [Palm] because an operator had deemed that I may bypass their tollbooth.  I saw somebody else had a phone but he couldn't send the ringtone via Bluetooth because the operator wanted the subscriber to go through the tollbooth of purchasing ringtones.

What inhibitors do you see in mobile, today, that you believe will be pulled down by operators, going forwards?

That's a good question.  I think that if you look across operators, there are probably different levels of freedom, already.  I think there are some operators that are constraining what websites customers can go to, what applications they can install, where they get their ringtones.  I don't think that has ended.  I think that will continue to be pushed by carriers like Sprint, and that other carriers will continue to open up. 

I think there are still challenges to overcome, in terms of revenue sources for carriers.  There is this tension if you have a revenue stream today.  For example, Sprint operates a music store for our music-capable devices.  There is a tension between the revenue we get through that music store and the revenue from someone who had Rhapsody or some other music source they could choose from.  That could be lost revenue for Sprint.  How do we manage that? 

I think there will continue to be this shifting of revenue that is somewhat unnatural for a carrier to have, to sources that are better suited to that, and the enabling or freeing of the subscriber, making it easier and easier for the subscriber to find those other places to get games, ringers, full-track music, screen savers, or desktops, or whatever.  I think that will continue to be pushed.  Some of it is user behavior and learning how to do it.  Some of it is carriers taking away the barriers.  Some of it is carriers actually enabling and making it easier for customers to find content that they previously had to buy through the carrier - but now will be able to find it through other third party sources.

Okay, have you noticed the handsets are certainly becoming computers, like Android iPhone, etc.  Now, you're seeing this massive surge in Netbooks.  What are most people doing with Netbooks?  It's either Google Apps or it's the likes of Skype.  Does that give a "telephone" company concern when you're seeing more and more "near general purpose computers" hanging off the end of the network?  Do you see it as an opportunity?

It's certainly a tremendous opportunity, especially as a carrier like Sprint that isn't in the wire line broadband business.  We're only in the wireless broadband business, both with our 3G service, our EVDO service, as well as with Clear Wire with our Wi-Max service.  It's a tremendous opportunity for people to move from wire line broadband to wireless broadband.  That's a great thing. 

I think the challenge that needs to be managed is around network usage.  The reality is what I can do with a Netbook or any other real computer, or even a high-end smart phone, in terms of the amount of usage I can have on the network, is dramatically different from what we are used to seeing, even from 3G enabled smart phones or feature phones.

We need to have an eye on that, and understand what that drives, from a cost perspective into the network, and how do we manage that and make that work in a way that serves the customers' needs as well as keeps our economics in balance.

I know it's not your position to be asking this, but do you know if the backhaul from the BTS, from the antennas, how upgrading that is going?  Traditionally, these were just 2 Meg.

In the U.S. ...

Or, 1.5

It's a big issue.  It is one we certainly wrestle with.  There is a variety of different solutions to it.  We're pushing the envelope in all directions.  One solution is with fixed wireless technologies, microwave, Wi-Max, or LMDS.  There is a variety of different technologies to use fixed wireless.

The second is to move to fiber as opposed to copper for the cell site backhaul.  Clearly, the relationship, the partnership that we have with cable companies puts us in a position to be able to leverage their fiber throughout metro areas to make that happen.  It's going.  It's always an economic decision of what is the cost, especially if you're talking about building fiber out.  What is the cost of that build out versus what is the opportunity, in terms of revenue opportunity and cost-savings opportunity?  But, it's all moving forward.

I've just got two more questions I briefly noted to ask you.  I really feel guilty about taking you much past the time I agreed with you.  The final couple of questions here, can you shed any light on any Sprint plans with Android?  Being part of the Open Handset Alliance, I was hoping to get some detail on what the plans are with Android.  I believe that T-Mobile took on 130 people, last year, to develop on Android internally.

As you mentioned, we are one of the original members of the Open Handset Alliance.  Clearly, we're committed to Android.  We have a lot of work going on with Android.  I can't give you any specific details of when we would have handsets available, but certainly, there is active development happening there.

Finally, and it's more of an open-ended type question, I want to know what gets you excited, looking forward?  Where is the hope that you see?  I believe you're as interested in this space as I am.  Because of that, I would like to think that you are very much optimistic about the future and have hope where you see opportunity and where you see excitement.  Are you able to share any excitement you see or any hope where you see, for the communications industry - anything that gets you excited?

That's a great question.  Thanks Lee.  I think that many of the frustrations that you shared throughout this call point to the hope and excitement that I have.  I really do view mobility as the next revolution beyond the Internet and the computing revolution.  Mobility - the things that you are frustrated about, like location and knowing me, the personal nature, and data about me, that points to things being possible that weren't possible before, that aren't possible in just a wire line IP connection.  Mobility enables new things to happen that we haven't yet imagined.

To me, that's the exciting thing.  For Sprint, that's where we see tremendous opportunity, not doing those things ourselves, but enabling innovation around the unique characteristics of mobility.  I get excited.  I think some of what we're seeing in the Android marketplace and some of what we're seeing in the iPhone App Store points to the creativity that can happen that can leverage the unique characteristics of mobility.  Those are promising first signs. 

I think, unlike the Internet, where the carriers chose to ignore it, chose even to inhibit the innovation from happening; carriers like Sprint will embrace openness and embrace innovation and the enabling of innovation by others.  Not only will Sprint see it happen, but will participate as that value gets created for our customers.  That's what gives me hope and what I get excited about.  Thanks Lee.

I would like to say I appreciate the time I've had with you, particularly because I know it's easier for me to ask the questions than it is for you to answer it, considering the constraints you're under.  From knowing about you from other sources, I know you have an equal passion for the industry.  I thank you very much and really look forward to seeing you there and speaking to you in person.

Great, thanks Lee.  Go have another cup of coffee.

I shall do and that will leave five more to go.  Take care, thanks again.

Bye

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This page contains a single entry by Lee S Dryburgh published on February 9, 2009 11:31 AM.

Accelerating During a Depressed Economy was the previous entry in this blog.

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