With more than 55 million subscribers, Sprint is the third largest carrier in North America – and one of the most innovative. Sprint was the first national US carrier to offer advanced mobile broadband services and also pioneered unlimited-data subscriptions for consumers.
In December 2010, the company unveiled Network Vision – a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar investment initiative to deploy a converged, next-generation network offering a superior customer experience with improved efficiency, quality and flexibility. This new network would play a key role in the vision through its ability to handle the surge in data traffic from smartphones and other connected devices.
But even before Network Vision, Sprint had broken new ground with a pioneering managed-services agreement with Ericsson called Network Advantage.
Ericsson manages the network
Under Network Advantage, Ericsson assumes responsibility for the day-to-day services, provisioning, and maintenance of all Sprint-owned wireless and wireline networks. It enables Sprint to focus more on delivering a superior customer experience, innovative services and popular new devices – all while realizing cost and efficiency improvements.
"Ericsson’s Network Advantage partnership with Sprint is a global landmark: a Tier 1 carrier has entrusted its entire network operations – a core function traditionally managed in-house – to a partner, Ericsson," says Ericsson’s Ajit Bhatia, Vice President and Head of Marketing and Business Development in North America.
"Sprint’s decision to outsource network operations to Ericsson was a bold move, driving a superior customer experience while delivering flexibility, cost and operational efficiencies. With Ericsson operating its network, Sprint benefits from best-in-class practices, economies of scale and experience gained from running hundreds of managed-services contracts globally."
The Network Advantage terms benefit both partners. Ericsson is responsible for the operation, maintenance, and management of the Sprint network, while Sprint retains ownership of all strategic decisions, the network assets and the technology investment.
Sprint’s Bob Azzi, Senior Vice President for Networks, explains the backdrop for the deal: "In 2009, we were reestablishing our market position and needed to reduce our network costs – to do something different – so we started to look at outsourcing.
"We decided on Ericsson because of their vast experience in running managed services across the globe. They had the know-how to increase efficiencies. And that was the key – they could deliver real and continuous productivity improvements."
Ericsson’s capabilities were put to the test in mid-2010 when Sprint experienced unprecedented success with smartphone sales, leading to a phenomenal rise in network data traffic that is continuing today. "Ericsson very quickly had to adjust to a new set of priorities," Azzi explains. "They had to go from spending 80 percent of their time on maintaining the network to spending 60 percent growing it.
"We knew when we decided to go with a managed-services partnership that lots of things would change – there would be some unknowns – and that we would need to have trust in the partnership. We have not been disappointed.
"Our users expect a high-quality experience, so the performance of the network is key. Our expectation is that Ericsson will maintain and improve upon that performance, and that our customers can rely on having a consistently high quality experience, regardless of how they choose to use their mobile devices."