Sprint changing its name to Softbank?

At the recent Mobile World Congress Americas show in Los Angeles, visitors saw this giant sign just as they walked in. Sprint had a really massive presence at the show which led visitors to ask quite a few questions.

Hey, aren’t you merging with T-Mobile?

It’s true, plans are in place for the yellow network to merge with the pink one. I guess they’ll be a sort of fleshy peachy color when it’s all done. Seriously though, the two companies are working on a plan. If it gets through the FCC then the Sprint name will probably be retired.

So why the gigantic booth right at the front door?

I have to admit I asked this myself. Why would a company that is trying very hard not to even exist spend big bucks for a trade show presence? The answer is simply that trade show contracts are negotiated years in advance and it was too late to stop.

Sprint used the opportunity to talk about its 5G plans, which include essentially merging with T-Mobile and using their 5G plans. Interestingly enough the T-Mobile booth was about as far away from the Sprint booth as possible, although there was a lot of 5G information there. T-Mobile actually has a real plan in place. It’s not as comprehensive as what AT&T wants to do but at least they have a real plan in place.

Will the name change?

I doubt that it will, but if the Sprint service is sold to T-Mobile’s parent company, then it’s possible we’ll start seeing SoftBank-branded equipment in the US. The company was virtually unknown here before they bought Sprint and I don’t believe they actually have any intention to leave the US market. I think they will stay on and they might find themselves with a place at the table, supplying 5G hardware to independent companies. There were plenty of other companies at the Mobile World Congress trade show that were doing just that: supplying 5G test equipment, cell tower equipment, and the like. It wouldn’t surprise me to see SoftBank becoming one of those types of companies. Consumers might never see their name, but in the lucrative world of backbone hardware, they could become a giant.

Will AT&T or Verizon be interested?

It’s impossible to know at this point but there’s every reason to think that if Softbank stays in the US they will be courting other major cell carriers. They would only get so far by working with T-Mobile on the hardware side of things. They would have to do something to survive over here.

It’s hard to know what SoftBank’s plans are here and they certainly were tight-lipped at the trade show. Considering the giant banners were up, there wasn’t any single person who would go on record saying why. They just touted pride in their parent company, which to be honest sort of sounded a little weak. I mean of course they should be proud, but I’m not sure that’s a reason to spend all that money on identifying yourself that way.