Forsee Updates Sprint-MSO JV

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Sprint Nextel Corp. is putting a big push behind its fledgling partnership with cable operators, and CEO Gary Forsee gave investors an update Monday on how that is taking shape.

Forsee told a crowd at Citigroup Inc.'s 16th Annual Global Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix that the partnership forged this fall is leading toward a service rollout starting in the second quarter.

Sprint Nextel recently named John Garcia as president of the joint-venture project involving Comcast Corp., Time Warner Inc., Cox Communications Inc. and Advance/Newhouse Communications. Forsee said Sprint Nextel and the cable quartet have come up with a product roadmap for rollout of jointly branded wireless service offered to cable customers.

He added that the next stage for the JV will come in 2007, as Sprint rolls out “Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) Rev A,” a technology allowing Internet-protocol-voice services on what is now a data-only broadband connection.

Meanwhile, the JV partners have worked out many of the back-office and customer-care issues, including the fact that cable operators will handle the initial customer calls related to their co-branded wireless services.

By the end of this month, Sprint Nextel and its cable partners will have identified the initial markets for launching the co-branded wireless services, which will occur in the second quarter and into the early third quarter, Forsee said.

“This venture will be a product-development instrument of the players -- Sprint and the cable companies -- and, as a result of that, I think we have an excellent chance of getting off to a good start this year with them,” he added.

Content will be a key part of the partnership, and for Forsee, that means quality, not quantity. The key there was not to simply cram more content on mobile devices, but rather to make content more accessible to users by making it easier to access.

The joint venture with cable “was also pointed at the understanding they’ve reached over time as to the usability of content services,” Forsee said, adding, “I think there is a huge opportunity, and we will use the joint venture with cable to really accelerate the usability issue.”

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