Wells Fargo was back to cheerleading for Sprint this week, observing once again in a Monday note that the carrier’s network tools and spectrum assets leave a “long runway” for growth and improvement with or without one of the rumored merger deals.
Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche insisted in the note that the market continues to underappreciate Sprint, allowing concerns about CapEx spending to cloud the full picture of what the carrier has up its sleeve.
Though Fritzsche cited several network tools – like carrier aggregation and massive MIMO – that will also be available to other carriers, she said the key to Sprint’s cost-effective success will be its massive reserve of spectrum. Here, Fritzsche pointed out Sprint’s holdings are “deeper and more simplified” than those of other carriers (this excluded bands above 3 GHz, including millimeter wave frequencies, where Verizon would hold the edge thanks to its XO Communications deal).
Fritzsche dubbed Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum its “crown jewels” for three main reasons, not the least of which was because she said the spectrum will both play a key role in the 5G ecosystem as the next generation’s equivalent of “low band” airwaves. Sprint’s wide swath of 2.5 GHz spectrum, she said, also makes use of network tools like three-carrier aggregation and massive MIMO easier. This is because the carrier can work within one band for the former and utilize smaller form factors (compared to 700 MHz) for the latter. On the massive MIMO point in particular, Fritzsche predicted “Sprint should have (the) advantage in terms of total capital outlay vs. many of its peers.”
As evidence that Sprint is already making strides on its limited capital budget, Fritzsche turned to recent results from third party network testers, like RootMetrics and JD Power. In both, she noted, the carrier has gained ground on the competition.
“While we acknowledge there would be significant (massive?!) synergies in a S / TMUS merger, we do believe S has a long runway even if on a go-alone strategy,” Fritzsche concluded. “Because of its spectrum advantage and technology advancements, when we think about strategic relationships across the wireless industry, we believe even in the absence of a merger with another player – S has more than enough in terms of spectrum and network capabilities to stand on its own two feet.”