Sprint says Dish spectrum deal may be possible

NEW YORK Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:23pm EDT

A woman talks on her phone as she walks past T-mobile and Sprint wireless stores in New York July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A woman talks on her phone as she walks past T-mobile and Sprint wireless stores in New York July 30, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel (S.N) could try to forge a spectrum agreement with Dish Network (DISH.O) in the future, according to the Chief Financial Officer of the No. 3 U.S. wireless service.

This could involve Sprint buying spectrum from Dish or a so-called spectrum hosting deal in which Dish could offer wireless services using the Sprint network and Dish's spectrum, Sprint's CFO Joseph Euteneuer told investors on Tuesday.

Dish, which is seeking regulatory approval to build a cellular network using wireless airwaves it bought for $3 billion, had previously said it would consider partnerships with wireless operators including Sprint or its rivals.

"We'd be a great hosting partner for him if he needed one," Euteneuer said during a webcast of an investor conference, referring to Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen.

Euteneuer also said that Sprint, which is currently upgrading its wireless network for high-speed services, could be in the market in the future to buy spectrum from Dish or in a U.S. government auction to expand its network capacity.

Sprint's board vetoed a multi-billion dollar purchase of MetroPCS Communications PCS.N last month, according to sources.

Euteneuer said that Sprint could be involved in U.S. wireless industry consolidation in the future if it manages to improve its share price enough to have the "currency" to make a deal.

"We believe consolidation should happen in the industry ... everybody's talking to everybody, and we'll see what happens," Euteneuer said in response to questions about the possibility for U.S. consolidation and whether Sprint could be involved.

Euteneuer said consolidation would happen as companies were forced to work with each other because of a widespread shortage of U.S. wireless spectrum.

Sprint is expected to be under a lot of scrutiny in the next few years as it grapples with the cost of upgrading its network and its $15.5 billion commitment to Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for its right to sell the iPhone.

Euteneuer said he hoped to seal agreements for up to $3 billion in vendor financing in the second quarter to help fund Sprint's network upgrade.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew)

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