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Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son on His Quest for T-Mobile and More

Son has faced and overcome obstacles before, but in trying to rebuild Sprint, he faces one of his toughest tasks yet.

Asa Mathat

Liveblog highlights:

  • The U.S. created the Internet, but its speeds rank 15th out of 16 major countries, ahead of only the Philippines. (Mexico is No. 17, by the way.)
  • The dominant players in wireless and fixed-line communications have returned $100 billion in dividends to shareholders, but have not focused on improving speeds.
  • Masayoshi Son refuses to talk about a possible bid for T-Mobile, but he expressed his admiration for the company and called it disruptive.
  • Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile have sufficient scale to compete nationally.
  • The U.S. became a giant in the 20th century because of infrastructure — highways and electricity. But in the information age, it’s lagging.
  • Son promises to abide by the concept of net neutrality.
  • Addressing speculation about another tech bubble, and whether investor enthusiasm will impact Alibaba’s planned initial stock offering, Son notes that the Chinese company’s valuation will reflect its scale. It’s larger than Amazon and eBay combined.
  • What did Sprint get wrong? One word: WiMax.

Masayoshi Son is a man who knows how to dream big and turn those dreams into realities.

As head of SoftBank, he has made big early bets and also shown a penchant for being able to come from behind — having taken a small player in the Japanese wireless market and turned it into a serious player through aggressive, bold moves.

In acquiring control of No. 3 U.S. carrier Sprint, though, Son faces one of his toughest tasks. The clearest option — and Son’s clear preference — would be to merge with rival T-Mobile to gain the bulk needed to better take on AT&T and Verizon.

Regulators, though, have taken a dim view of that. However, Son is clearly not giving up, recently making the rounds in Washington to argue why his approach would be good for competition. He continued that in his appearance onstage at the Code Conference on Wednesday.

He pointed out that the U.S. has some of the slowest Internet in the developed world at a time where the incumbents in the wireless and wireline broadband business are returning more than $100 billion in dividends to shareholders.

“We need scale,” he says, while refusing to talk about T-Mobile specifically. At the same time, he said he admires T-Mobile US CEO John Legere and what the company has done on the pricing front. Without a deal, though, he said Sprint and T-Mobile will continue to lose money.

Meanwhile, while saying he needed to be careful what he said about Alibaba given that it has filed to go public, Son nonetheless sang the praises of the Chinese e-commerce giant. He noted Alibaba last year had more revenue and profit than eBay and Amazon combined.

Oh, and there are lots of countries it could expand to. Maybe even the U.S. someday.

But, he said, throwing a nod to securities law, investors will have to make up their own minds.

This article originally appeared on

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