This week, Re/code – formerly AllThingsD – is having their annual <code/conference> and they have all kinds of execs lined up this week for interviews. They interviewed Google’s Sergey Brin last night, Intel’s CEO this morning and right now they are speaking with Sprint’s Chairman and Softbank CEO, Masayoshi Son. Many of you have probably heard a lot about Mr. Son lately, as he owns around 70% of Sprint, and is looking to acquire T-Mobile now to take on the big dogs of AT&T and Verizon. While the feds aren’t interested in having a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Son has noted that he is not backing down from this. And has been lobbying heavily to get the merger approved. Even though they haven’t talked money yet with Deutsche Telekom, at least that we know of.
Masayoshi Son talks about how the US invented the internet, but our speeds are ranked number 15 out of the top 16 countries. Which is pretty slow, in fact we only beat out the Philippines. Walt Mossberg asks Son who his ISP is in the US, and it’s Comcast, but he’s unfamiliar with how much he pays. Masayoshi says that the big two, AT&T and Verizon have not focused on improving their internet speeds. Although I think Verizon and their recent launch of XLTE might disagree. Now onto Sprint, Walt tells Masayoshi that he can barely get a signal from Sprint in the building, “I totally agree. I’ve only owned the company for six months. It takes a few years.”
Talking about buying T-Mobile now “We need scale,” he says, while refusing to talk about T-Mobile specifically. Walt notes that T-Mobile has been pretty disruptive.”I strongly admire them,” he said. “I strongly admire the price disruption”. Son notes that both companies are losing money. In fact, in Q1 2014, both companies lost the exact same amount of money. While T-Mobile added over 2 million customers and Sprint actually lost customers. Son asks, how can you sustain that? Simply put, you can’t. Walt asks Son how combining two money losers will work “Neither one of them has a sufficient network today,” Son says. Nor a sufficient spectrum holdings and other assets. Which makes plenty of sense, actually.
Son does not that the government is a big issue for him. Since he was able to turn around Softbank in Japan and make it a top carrier, both in mobile and ISP. But with all the government regulations here it’s giving Son a tough time. “The regulation in this country is wrong.” He also says he would provide net neutrality. Which has been a big topic as of late.
Now they are into asking audience questions. One person asked what did Sprint do wrong. Son says “WiMax was the wrong technology. Period.” Which I can completely agree with, and I’m sure many of you can as well. Another question was about his relationship with John Legere – T-Mobile’s CEO – Son says he admires Legere, which I believe a lot of people in this industry do.