SoftBank completes Sprint buyout, drops the ‘Nextel’ name

Softbank logo (full size)

It’s official. Sprint Nextel is now simply Sprint Corporation, as SoftBank completes its high-profile buyout of the wireless provider. Japan’s third-largest carrier now owns a controlling stake in the United States’ third-largest carrier. Fitting, isn’t it?

The deal, which has been in negotiations since last fall, is worth some $21.6 billion. $5 billion of it is being used as a cash infusion to take on future projects, and the other $16.6 billion is going to Sprint shareholders. And Nextel? It’s gone for good…

Reuters reports:

“Analysts expect Japan’s SoftBank, an aggressive competitor in its home market, to make big changes at Sprint once its takeover of the U.S. mobile service provider closes on Wednesday. They say Sprint needs an overhaul after years of customer losses that have hurt its bottom line.

Softbank founder Masayoshi Son told Reuters in April that he was preparing a “secret weapon” to revive Sprint – a “very innovative product, innovative service that no other carriers in the world are preparing.”

First things first, though. SoftBank’s top priority is expanding Sprint’s wireless capacity with spectrum gained from the Clearwire buyout that was finalized yesterday. Vice chairman Ron Fisher told Retuers that “until one has a network that really provides the kind of service we all look for, that’s the most critical thing.”

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That’s actually really good news for Sprint customers, considering what they’ve had to put up with over the years. The carrier’s 3G network has long been criticized for its speed and consistency, and its nationwide LTE rollout is moving painfully slow.

And it’s even better news for Sprint itself. The wireless provider has had a rough last several years, failing to merge its network with Nextel after a pricey buyout, and betting on the wrong horse in the 4G race. Its future isn’t cemented, but at least it’s bright.

It’ll be interesting to see what SoftBank does with Sprint. It’s obviously extremely confident in its game plan, outlasting Dish Network in a bidding war for the company, and the carrier’s potential. It says it does not have any immediate plans for major layoffs.