Media & Entertainment

Sprint Wants To Revive Nextel As A Business Brand, Merge Boost + Virgin Mobile Into ‘Sprint Freedom’


Image Credits:

It was only six months ago that Sprint decommissioned and shut down the Nextel iDEN push-to-talk network, and while the carrier has no plans to bring that legacy service back, the brand is another story.

According to a source close to the company, Sprint wants to introduce Nextel again — as a brand for business services. The source tells TechCrunch that this is part of a larger branding overhaul coming in Q1 in which Sprint plans to launch a new prepaid brand called “Sprint Freedom” — merging Boost and Virgin Mobile.

Sprint declined to comment for this story, but if the information from the source is accurate, the moves point to Sprint raising its game targeting businesses (particularly smaller and medium businesses) as well as streamlining its patchwork of services.

It also fits with the idea of Sprint — now majority-owned by Japan’s SoftBank — marching on in consolidation mode, shoring up to present a more competitive face against the likes of AT&T and Verizon. Most recently, Sprint has been reportedly preparing an offer for T-Mobile USA, its latest move after acquiring Clear and buying a portion of U.S. Cellular earlier this year.

The Nextel service, our source says, will be part of a bigger push to court business customers. That makes some sense: Nextel’s existing business subscriber base, and brand recognition with that segment, were seen as some of the main reasons behind Sprint’s $35 billion acquisition of the company in the first place.

The new Nextel business, says the source, will be underpinned by more service streamlining: it will be a “premium” offering consisting of the 4G fixed and mobile broadband services that were originally the Clear business. The Nextel name, our source says, will go “on top of everything that was Clear and then target businesses.”

Along with previously-Clear services, there will also be more devices introduced, specifically around Sprint Spark — the tri-band LTE service debuted earlier this year that gives users faster speeds and more reliable connectivity.

Introduced with smartphones from HTC (the One max), LG (G2) and Samsung (Galaxy Mega and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini), Sprint Spark will be extended with two hotspots and three tablets as part of the offering.

And with that, some changes also around pricing, apparently. “Unlimited data options will come back for the hotspots at a premium, but pricing will be tiered by speed,” the source claims. Sprint will also introduce group plans that will apply to the new Nextel devices.

Sprint Freedom

Another part of plan, says that source, concerns Sprint’s prepaid businesses Virgin Mobile and Boost. Collectively, users on these two networks may generate less revenue than Sprint’s postpaid operations, but they serve as a useful counterbalance to the other service, adding customers last quarter as the number of ARPU-rich postpaid users declined.

Like Nextel and Clear, Virgin Mobile and Boost came to Sprint via acquisitions, and it looks like the carrier is now putting that in order, too.

Boost and Virgin Mobile will get wrapped into a new, single service called “Sprint Freedom.” It’s not entirely clear but it sounds as if this could mean the eventual scrapping of the two existing brands. Assurance Wireless, the free mobile phone service provided by Virgin Mobile under the Universal Service Fund, will not be affected, our source says.

While a lot of these plans sound like logical consolidation moves for the company, the question mark will be whether Sprint will manage to juggle all the changes without dropping anything (or anyone) in the process. A new Nextel business service would effectively mean a double-leap with a set of legacy products: first turning the Clear service into one focused less on consumers and more on businesses; and second rebranding it as a Nextel offering, but different from what Sprint was selling as a Nextel service not too long ago.

In the meantime, it is also not clear how a service called Sprint Freedom would sit alongside other services also called “Freedom” — such as Sprint’s international calling plans, not to mention the Freedom Pop “free” wireless service that is a wholesale customer on Sprint’s network.

And just as the closure of the Nextel brand earlier this year may have left some wondering whether Sprint would really let Nextel disappear into thin air, now the same might be said for Boost, Virgin Mobile and Clear. “It’s been a contentious issue for many,” our source said of the internal response to the changes. Perhaps one reason why these details got leaked to us.

[Image modified from Shutterstock]

More TechCrunch

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI is removing ChatGPT’s AI voice that sounds like Scarlett Johansson

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft Build 2024: All the AI and hardware products Microsoft announced

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says