Softbank's Son Discusses Ambitions for Sprint, Web Growth, U.S. Rank

Masayoshi Son spoke about industry issues and offered his perspective on the potential of a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

Masayoshi Son, CEO and chairman of Softbank and now chairman of the Sprint Corp., is on a campaign to change hearts and minds about the potential of a Sprint merger with T-Mobile. Son recently taped a show with Charlie Rose, and on March 11 gave a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

In his speech, Son—without ever mentioning T-Mobile—painted a compelling picture of how Sprint, with greater scale, could help to boost America, and Americans, and make it again a leader, in a key area where we're faltering. And how he's just the man to lead this effort.

He talked about how he convinced the Japanese government to deregulate the wireless industry; how improvements he made to the wireless situation in Japan can be replicated in the United States; how U.S. customers use less data than Japanese customers but pay more for it; how U.S. connectivity speeds have fallen behind; and the debt that he personally feels to America, which presented him with opportunities during a time in his life when he felt he had none.

John Roos, who for four years was the U.S. ambassador to Japan, gave Son a warm and humanizing welcome—a necessary thing for a man who in headlines is often reduced to two words: Japanese billionaire.

As his speech took place on the third anniversary of Japan's devastating 9.0 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Roos talked about how moved he was by Son's response at the time. Son personally donated $100 million to the relief efforts, along with "his salary for the rest of his career," and additionally funded a three-week exchange program for 300 high school students from the disaster areas to attend the University of California, Berkeley—Son's alma mater.

"Masa, if you don't know him, is one of those rare and inspiring people that want to change the world for the better, but he actually makes it happen," Roos added. "Though I'm not sure Masa ever sleeps, I do know that he dreams big and he translates those dreams into relentless action."

Below are 10 excerpts from Son's speech. If it's possible for anyone to sway regulators and consumer opinion toward thinking a merger between the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers isn't a terrible idea—as many people now think it is—Son may be the rare person for the task.

1. There's money in the Internet.

While the overall GDP of the United States is growing at a rate around 4.6 percent, the Internet segment is growing at around 35 percent per year. The United States' Internet GDP alone is bigger than the GDP of the entire country of Switzerland, said Son. And while PC-based Internet initiated the momentum, the mobile Internet will continue it forward.

"Mobile broadband alone is going to bring $1 trillion of additional scale … and this mobile broadband is going to add 1 million jobs, new jobs, for the American workforce," said Son. "This is the opportunity that is so bright, so great, that we should not miss it."

2. The United States is falling behind.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the future, said Son. It's the "next-generation highway" on which everything will run. However, in a study by Open Signal that ranked the LTE situations of 16 nations, the United States ranked 15, just ahead of the Philippines.

"As I said in the first part of my presentation, the U.S. has been number one on every infrastructure for the past 100 years. For electricity, for the automobile, for airlines, for televisions. For all of these important infrastructures, the U.S.A. has been number one in the world," said Son. "How can the American people accept the fact that it is number 15 for the most important highway, the information highway, for the next century? I think we have to change this."

3. Americans need to remember the sky is blue.

In Japan, Internet speeds improved by 66 percent in one year; in the United States, they're getting worse, said Son.