US cellco Sprint has announced nationwide availability of HD Voice services, which it says are currently supported on 28 smartphones for post-paid subscribers on its network alongside 33 handsets available for pre-paid Sprint users, while it estimates that approximately 16 million of its customers are already using an HD Voice enabled device.
Sprint also announced that it has expanded its 4G LTE mobile broadband footprint to 28 additional markets, raising the total nationwide cities covered to 471, up from 402 markets served in March. The new markets include Seattle, Cleveland and San Jose, and the LTE network now reaches more than 225 million people, with Sprint aiming to increase this figure to 250 million in the short-term. Additionally, Sprint has expanded its ‘Sprint Spark’ branded LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network coverage (with average data speeds of 6Mbps-15Mbps and peak speeds of 50Mbps-60Mbps) to three additional markets (St. Louis, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, NC), taking the total footprint to 27 cities (up from 18 in March), with the aim of reaching 100 million people with LTE-A services by the end of 2014 (and around 100 cities in the next two-three years).
Meanwhile, regarding Sprint’s proposed takeover of rival US cellco T-Mobile, Reuters reported that Sprint – majority-owned by Japan’s Softbank – has lined up eight banks to finance the deal that would combine the third- and fourth-largest US mobile operators. According to people familiar with the matter, the debt package exceeds USD40 billion, including an approximately USD20 billion bridge loan from Softbank plus around USD20 billion refinancing of T-Mobile’s existing debt. The sources added that three Japanese banks – Mizuho Financial Group, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group – have agreed to finance the deal alongside five global banks – JPMorgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.
Finally, whilst Sprint and T-Mobile remain rivals rather than sister brands, Sprint has launched a promotion under which it is offering a 30-day free trial of its mobile services, which trumps a recently announced promotion from T-Mobile giving users a week’s free trial.