Gartner: Sprint's MPLS, Ethernet expansions advance its standing

Sprint (NYSE: S) may be known primarily for its wireless services, but the provider's efforts to grow its domestic and global footprint drove up its profile from niche player to challenger on Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant for Global Network Service Providers.

In 2012, the service provider increased its investment in its wireline business by 53 percent. Two of the key network growth areas it invested in throughout the year were its global MPLS network and Ethernet through E-NNI (external-network to network interconnection agreements with other carrier partners.

Although Sprint clearly trails other incumbents, including AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), the service provider has been making some progress with Ethernet services. It has made its Ethernet offering, which clients use primarily to access its MPLS network services, available in 147 markets domestically and 64 countries.

Stephanie Greenwood, a Sprint spokeswoman, told FierceTelecom in a previous interview that it "plans to continue building out existing markets and adding new markets in 2013, as well as expanding globally" with Ethernet.

"Sprint continues to grow its global MPLS network, which now has sufficient on-net reach for many multinational enterprises, while Ethernet coverage has also been expanded through partners," wrote Gartner in its report. "Sprint differentiates itself in international MPLS pricing by not charging port premiums for class-of-service tiers and offering simplified contracts that are not heavily customized."

Besides Ethernet and MPLS, the service provider is also growing its SIP trunking capabilities by expanding its footprint and using its existing wireless assets for U.S. access options.

One event that could help up its profile in the global wireline race will be when Softbank completes the acquisition of the company later this year.

While the leaders of the two companies have mainly played up the wireless side, Gartner said that the acquisition could drive more investment and focus on its wireline network assets and services. But even if that deal does drive more wireline growth, they will still be far behind the likes of the dominant U.S. and international players such as AT&T, Verizon, BT (NYSE: BT) and Orange.

"Sprint has been increasing its wireline investments and SoftBank may bring an additional infusion of investment; however, the vendor's current level of wireline capital investment trails that of the leading providers in this Magic Quadrant," Gartner wrote. "Sprint is adding nodal coverage strategically, but is heavily dependent on partners for emerging regions, such as Africa."

Sprint is also faring well on the domestic enterprise services front as well.

In its Critical Capabilities for U.S. Wireline Telecom Services report issued last month, Gartner wrote that "Sprint is often chosen as a secondary or backup provider for wireline services, particularly for data services, adding that "wireline renewals remained strong in 2012 for midsize accounts."

For more:
- see Sprint's release
- here's Gartner Magic Quadrant report
- and the domestic players report

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