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Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure Promises 'Our Network Will Be No. 1'

Marcelo is plotting his way to the top, and he has the deep pockets to get it done.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

When Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure took over the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, he inherited oversight of a sick patient.

On Wednesday, the Bolivian-born executive took the stage at the Code Conference at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., to declare his intentions not only to resuscitate the patient, but to turn it into the No. 1 network in the nation.

“Expect in 18 to 24 months, our network will be No. 1 [or] 2,” Claure said.

Claure said he has spent hours in Tokyo working with the carrier’s major investor, SoftBank, and its chief executive, Masayoshi Son, to develop a plan for re-architecting Sprint’s network. He said it boasts a rich allocation of wireless spectrum but has nonetheless been plagued by poor service.

Sprint is dedicated to overhauling a network third-party measurement services have ranked as dead last in terms of performance. He said he has been encouraged by improvements in cities such as Denver, Las Vegas and Chicago.

“We have 124 first-place awards, compared to 12 last year,” Claure said. “I can tell you we’re making progress, and I can tell you the area of focus will be the continued building of our network.”

Re/code Senior Editor Ina Fried asked how Sprint can afford to make such network investments at a time when promotions designed to attract new customers are cutting into revenue.

Claure pointed to Sprint’s deep-pocketed majority owner, SoftBank, as supporting the network overhaul.

“We have a clear funding plan,” Claure said, adding that Softbank’s Son “made a pretty strong commitment: I’m going to build a strong network.”

When he assumed the top job nearly a year ago, Claure said, Sprint was losing about 700,000 customers a quarter and the staff was demoralized — especially after the collapse of a planned merger with T-Mobile that had been described as key to strengthening Sprint’s competitive standing.

Claure said he had to “jump right in” to stanch the losses. He introduced a range of new promotions and discounts to lure subscribers, even as he focused on improving a network known for poor-quality service. Sprint added some 1.2 million customers in the most recent quarter, though it is burning through cash.

“I think the patient is doing well now,” Claure said. “The patient is in stable condition.”

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