Sprint Corporation is an American telecommunications company that provides wireless services and is an internet service provider, based in Overland Park, Kansas. It is the fourth-largest mobile network operator in the United States and serves 54.5 million customers as of March 2019. The company also offers wireless voice, messaging, and broadband services through its various subsidiaries under the Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Assurance Wireless brands, and wholesale access to its wireless networks to mobile virtual network operators. In July 2013, a majority of the company was purchased by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Group Corp., although the remaining shares of the company continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Sprint uses CDMA, EvDO and 4G LTE networks. Sprint is incorporated in Kansas.
Sprint traces its origins to the Brown Telephone Company, which was founded in 1899 to bring telephone service to the rural area around Abilene, Kansas. In 2006, Sprint left the local landline telephone business, spinning those assets off into a new company named Embarq, which later became a part of CenturyLink. The company remains one of the largest long-distance providers in the United States.
Until 2005, the company was also known as the Sprint Corporation, but took the name Sprint Nextel Corporation when it merged with Nextel Communications, and adopted its black & yellow color scheme along with a new logo. In 2013, following the shutdown of the Nextel network and concurrent with the acquisition by SoftBank, the company returned to using Sprint Corporation. In July 2013, as part of the SoftBank transactions, Sprint acquired the remaining shares of wireless broadband carrier Clearwire Corporation which it did not already own.
In August 2014, CEO Dan Hesse was replaced by Marcelo Claure. In May 2018, Michel Combes replaced Claure. Claure is now the executive chairman of Sprint, working to get Sprint’s planned merger with rival T-Mobile through regulatory proceedings.
The Sprint Corporation traces its origins to two companies, the Brown Telephone Company and Southern Pacific Railroad. Brown Telephone Company was founded in 1899 by Cleyson Brown to deploy telephone service to the rural area around Abilene, Kansas. The Browns installed their first long-distance circuit in 1900 and became an alternative to Bell Telephone, the most popular telephone service at the time. In 1911, C. L. Brown consolidated the Brown Telephone Company with three other independents to form the United Telephone Company. C. L. Brown formed United Telephone and Electric (UT&E) in 1925. In 1939, at the end of the Great Depression, UT&E reorganized to form United Utilities.
In 1964, Paul H. Henson became president of United Utilities, and was named as chairman two years later. When Henson began working at the company in 1959, it had 575,000 telephones in 15 states and revenues of $65 million. Henson is credited with creating the first major fiber optic network, having recognized it as a way to handle more calls and provide better quality sound.
In 1972, United Utilities changed its name to United Telecommunications. United Telecommunications began working on a 23,000 mile fiber optic network for long-distance calls in 1980. This long-distance business became profitable for the company for the first time in 1989. Henson retired from United Telecommunications in 1990. By this time the company had grown to have revenues of $8 billion.
Sprint also traces its roots back to the Southern Pacific Railroad (SPR), which was founded in the 1860s and was a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Company (SPC). The company operated thousands of miles of track as well as telegraph wire that ran along those tracks. In the early 1970s the company began looking for ways to use its existing communications lines for long-distance calling. This division of the business was named the Southern Pacific Communications Company. By the mid 1970s, was beginning to take business away from AT&T, which held a monopoly at the time. A number of lawsuits between SPC and AT&T took place throughout the 1970s, with the majority being decided in favor of increased competition. Prior attempts at offering long distance voice services had not been approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), although a fax service (called SpeedFAX) was permitted.
Southern Pacific Communications decided they needed a new name to differentiate the switched voice service from SpeedFAX, and ran an internal contest to select a name. The winning entry was “SPRINT”, an acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications.
In 1982, it was announced that GTE Corp. had reached an agreement to buy SPC’s long-distance telephone operation, including Sprint. The deal was later finalized in 1983.
In 1986, GTE Sprint merged with the United Telecommunications Inc. property, US Telecom. The joint venture was to be co-owned by GTE and United Telecom named US Sprint Communications. The new entity also included communications firm GTE Telenet, and United Telecom Data communications Co., (formerly known as Uninet). In 1988, GTE sold more of Sprint to Telecom, giving Telecom operational control of the company. United Telecom announced it would complete its acquisition of US Sprint in April 1990.
United Telecom officially changed its name to Sprint Corporation in 1992 to capitalize on its brand recognition.