Sprint-Nextel Merger Poses Tech Challenges

By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2004-12-15 Print this article Print

Analysts say that while Sprint's high-speed CDMA network should please Nextel's enterprise customers, they're also in for some short-term pain as the companies work to integrate their technologies.

The short-term outlook for Nextels enterprise customers under new, combined Sprint-Nextel management could prove difficult. But in the long term, the merger signals a new level of data service for the enterprise as Nextel moves its enterprise customer base from its aging IDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) to Sprints CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) system. "Obviously theres going to be a bit of upheaval, as there is with every merger," said Michael King, principal analyst at Gartner, adding, "its probably a good thing for the long-term viability of both companies." As a result of the merger, Sprint gains a focused, vertical sales force that Nextel has arranged along industry lines. In addition to knowing the Nextel offerings, said King, sales team members also understand the issues facing specific vertical issues, the tools they currently use and their data needs.
For Nextel, he said, that has produced the industrys highest penetration of data users and highest penetration of enterprise users.
Read more here about how the newly formed Sprint Nextel will shape the wireless industry. The merged companys ability to keep those enterprise customers will be a test of its mettle. "The enterprise has to view this long term with some trepidation," said Lance Wilson, director of wireless research at ABI Research. As a Nextel customer himself, Wilson said he has observed the superb customer service and technical support that enterprise customers demand. "You dont wait on the line 40 minutes to talk to somebody. Its a different philosophy and a different culture of doing business [from Sprints consumer-focused service], and its geared to people and enterprises where time is of the essence—where time is money, in other words. "Unless the Nextel customer can perceive a service level that is differentiated from that of the consumer-driven Sprint service, then that customer is up for grabs," Wilson said. Transitioning customers from Nextels IDEN network to Sprints high-speed CDMA network poses other challenges. "Ultimately, integration is going to be kind of a problem," Wilson said. "What are they going to do about handsets?" A large portion of Nextels line of handsets are geared toward heavy-duty, outdoor use and are designed for construction, mining, electrical and industrial environments. Those functions will have to be replicated in Sprints offerings in order to retain Nextels enterprise customer base. "That certainly can be done, but that just adds to things they have to do," Wilson said. Next Page: Gaining more bandwidth.

Carol Ellison is editor of eWEEK.com's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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