Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Qwest Wireless Death Watch?

The CEO of Qwest, Ed Mueller has announced they are reviewing how they sell wireless service in their 14-state wireline service area. They currently operate Qwest Wireless as an MVNO using Sprint's wireless network and roaming agreements.

Mr. Mueller stated that they are seeking a better "deal" for their wireless bundle, similar to what they have with Direct TV. That could mean he either wants to sell better handsets and advanced services than Sprint will allow...or he wants more money. He stated, "we want our partnerships to be deeper and more strategic, not just co-branding products." Today's Wall Street Journal reports that Qwest is in talks with Verizon Wireless to replace Sprint as their wireless partner. Most likely, Qwest will not become an MVNO of Verizon, but will instead just sell Verizon service in their communications bundle just like they do with Direct TV. No more "co-branding?" That tells me all the people who currently work in Qwest Wireless, they sell their own phones and maintain their own wireless customer service, might be facing job cuts.

The other side of the coin is that Qwest may just be "talking" to Verizon to get Sprint (or any wireless carrier) to offer a better deal for Qwest's use of their network. With over 820,000 customers, Qwest Wireless is relatively popular. Qwest and Verizon are fierce competitors for communications contracts to large customers, and the idea of them in bed together to sell wireless products just doesn't seem likely. Unless, of course, this is the camel's nose under the tent toward the eventual consolidation of Qwest and Verizon Communications.

We'll save that rumor for another day. For now, we'll just watch to see if Sprint does something stupid...again...and give up Qwest's 820,000 customers, opening the door for Verizon to ultimately snap up Sprint/Nextel. Oh my.

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