Sunday, October 21, 2007

Resignation of an Idea

In recent times, the telecom world saw a series of high-profile resignations. AT&T chief Ed Whitacre resigned last June. Then there were Sony Ericson's CEO Miles Flint, HTC's USA head, AT&T CEO Stan Stigman. But probably the most talked about of those was the resignation of Gary Forsee from the post of CEO of Sprint. Its not only because it has left Sprint with "finding the CEO" as one of their major activities, but it has left the future mass deployment of WiMAX in US doubtful.

This resignation came at a time when Spring and Clearwire jointly took up a project of mass deployment of WiMAX broadband solution across the US, on a spectrum sharing basis. It is a 7 billion dollar highly ambitious project. Both of them together projected a plan of having a subscriber base of 100 million by the end of 2008. I have explained the details of the deal in my one previous blog. Forsee was the major driving force behind the planned project from Sprint side.

From 2003, since his taking over as the CEO of Sprint, Forsee had razor sharp vision of taking Sprint on the wireless line. This visionary and hardworking leader finally took up WiMAX as his tool and made the deal with Clearwire after Clearwire and Spring won most of the spectrum in the 2.5 GHz domain in the last bidding. Forsee also wanted to promote this WiMAX broadband solution to revolutionary mobile WiMAX solution.

Just when the deal was in nascent state, his resignation came as a big surprise. But from Forsee or Sprint point of view, its not a sudden decision taken. In spite of all his leadership qualities that this man is known for, Sprint was going through a tough time under him. Sprint subscriber base reduced considerably. Share prices dropped. Plus it was paying high prices to the AT&T and Verizon for using their fiber-optic networks. Sprint was also struggling in melding Nextel into its working framework since its merger in 2005. So there was no surprise that Sprint's board was searching for a new CEO already, to replace Forsee.

  1. We will soon see a new permanent CEO of Sprint who may or may not revive Sprint from its current troubles. But what will happen to its WiMAX plan?
    • The situation is not very promising for the project. Its an ambitious project, costly project and very very risky project. It needs a passionate leader to take it to success, which it may not find in the new CEO. Even if the new CEO is interested, Sprint board may no longer be interested. Slowly, the project may get an immature death.
  2. How is it going to affect Clearwire?
    • I don't think Clearwire will back-off. They will definitely continue their broadband deployment overcoming the indirect damage they received by Forsee's resignation.
So the ball is now on the hands of Sprint board. Next few months is going to decisive in the WiMAX future of US and no one is going to watch it more eagerly and closely than Clearwire.

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