Sprint's Latest Windmill Tilt on Music, Not HD Voice

By Doug Mohney April 30, 2014

Sprint's big announcement turned out to be about high quality streaming music rather than HD voice.  The carrier's moves seem to verge on desperation at this point - hoping people will get excited by shiny baubles rather than look at where the company is (not) going.

Before the dog and pony show in New York City, Sprint's best news was last quarter's financial results which had a smaller financial loss than predicted by analysts.  The carrier "only"  lost $151 million last quarter, compared to a first quarter loss of $643 million. Analysts were betting on a loss of around 9 cents a share on $8.77 billion in revenue while Sprint 4 cents a share loss and $8.88 billion revenue.

Nearly half a million subscribers left last quarter, a loss I suspect can be attributed to T-Mobile's aggressive moves in the marketplace and AT&T and Verizon's adjustments to T-Mobile.   AT&T and Verizon have been steadily tinkering with their respective cellular plans since T-Mobile pulled the gloves off, so it shouldn't be surprising that Sprint hasn't picked up ground in subscribers of late.

Unfortunately, Sprint seems to be in love with non-standard, shiny new technology. I like to think it as the Island of Telecommunications Misfit Toys. Starting with the failed effort to introduce WiMAX, the company has invested heavily in upgrading its CDMA network with Qualcomm's 1X Advanced technology and it is also promoting a higher-speed LTE broadband service it calls Spark. 

You'll be able to get HD voice on Sprint's 3G network, but it is going to take more effort  (i.e., expense) to move those calls at HD voice quality between Sprint's network and practically every other network on the planet.  The rest of the world uses AMR-WB for HD voice, a codec already in use by T-Mobile US and over 90 other carriers.  AMR-WB is also the key codec in Voice over LTE, expected to be in operation in 2014,maybe, perhaps, possibly, if AT&T and Verizon move forward.

Sprint's latest toy is a new audio service to play music using a tweaked HTC phone.  The HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition includes Harman's Clari-Fi application to massage and "rebuilds" music fidelity lost during audio compression and the ability to play high-resolution digital downloads using a 24 bit/192 kHz DAC.   Clari-Fi makes compressed digital music such as MP3 downloads or streaming services sound richer, deeper and clearer.  The DAC enables lossless music introduction when you have the proper sources.

Promoting "better than CD quality" music has been an uphill battle for at least the past two decades.  True audiophiles might seek out a mobile solution, but these are the same people who prefer vacuum tubes and vinyl records for warmer, more detailed sounds -- there aren't masses beating down the doors of Best Buy.

Time will tell if Sprint's latest toy yields more customers, but its past history suggests that it is a long shot.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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