Sprint sees new company culture during reorganization

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (11/05/2003) - Sprint Chief Executive Officer Gary Forsee said the carrier's reorganization plan is well underway and all pieces should be in place by Jan. 1.

In an address at The Yankee Group Telecom Forum in Arlington, Virginia, Tuesday Forsee talked about how Sprint is integrating its employees, businesses units and services to look at the market from a customer perspective, rather than a product perspective. He also talked about changes within Sprint PCS, new wireless features and the ability to port telephone numbers.

"The timing of the reorganization has been associated with the deployment and evolution of our wireless network starting a year ago in the fourth quarter," Forsee said. "We brought together the back-office functions of our network... such as billing and account support."

The way the company had been set up, "two, three or four sales organizations" were calling on customers to talk about each of their product sets, but the customers wanted to talk about how the services were going to meet their needs, he said.

Forsee said the company's largest customers can still expect to have sales folks that are experts in Internet Protocol virtual private network or wireless, for example, brought in to their account team if necessary. Smaller business customers should expect one salesperson with a good understanding of all of the carrier's products. But he said the carrier has made a "SWAT team available to support those (sales) teams during the transition" to ensure customer needs are met.

"Nobody is better positioned than Sprint... to talk about convergence and integration," Forsee said. But that meant taking a Sprint that was divided into several product groups -- including local, long distance, global accounts and Sprint PCS -- and bringing them together for business and consumer customers.

In the second quarter Sprint integrated its "market facing" groups, including sales, customer service and marketing, Forsee said. The next step involves integrating Sprint's service offerings. "By the first of the year... we expect to have defined the product set with wireline and wireless integration."

"It's more than moving the boxes around the organization. This is changing the culture of the company," he said.

Part of the reorganization includes bring the company's wireless division under the wing of its parent. Forsee also reiterated past statements about integrating the Sprint PCS tracking stock back under Sprint. "I don't think it's a question of if we're going to, it's a question of when."

Besides integrating Sprint PCS into Sprint proper, the carrier plans to launch its own version of push-to-talk by the end of December. Sprint PCS' walkie-talkie feature very well may be introduced just as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission-mandated wireless number portability deadline of Nov. 24 looms ever closer.

"We expect our (push-to-talk) product to be very competitive... more competitive than Verizon's," Forsee said. "We expect to have a wider array of devices available in terms of launching with multiple manufacturers in our portfolio. We're very pleased with our approach."

Verizon Wireless was the second service provider to launch the walkie-talkie feature that was first made popular by Nextel Communications, which cornered the market for nearly 10 years. Verizon's service was launched in August and only supports one phone.

Forsee said Sprint PCS' service would be reliable and would perform as well as Nextel's services. "We're very bullish on push-to-talk."

When asked if he's worried that this feature will be launched around the same time as wireless number portability, he said no, and in fact in some ways it may prove advantageous for Sprint PCS.

While Forsee didn't go into details about any incentives the service provider may offer, analysts have speculated that the nation's largest wireless services providers will likely offer incentives, such as a free phone, if customers port their phone numbers to their networks. But several analysts have warned both business and consumer users not to jump on the porting bandwagon as soon as the feature is available.

Sprint PCS, along with most of its competitors, is still in the midst of drafting inter-carrier service-level agreements that spell out how numbers will be ported to and from each company's network. Once those agreements are drafted, testing usually takes place.

Forsee said that by Nov. 24 Sprint will have agreements with the other five largest national wireless service providers. But what hasn't been done is significant "load testing," he said. "I think all of us are ready, but there has not been load tests to indicate what the experience would be. I think we're just going to have to wait and see."

"We feel very good about handling our portion of... porting to and porting from," Sprint PCS' network, he said. "I can't certify how the other carriers... have done their job. But we're ready."

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