Sprint to stop offering wireline long-distance voice services

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Sprint (NYSE: S) has asked the FCC for permission to discontinue offering its wireline consumer long-distance service and associated features, a service line whose revenues continue to decline every quarter.

Citing what it says are "changing market conditions," the consumer long-distance services and associated features Sprint is looking to discontinue are its Message Telecommunications Service (i.e., 1+ long distance), FŌNCARD, Directory Assistance, and Operator Service, as well as all consumer pricing plans associated with Sprint Services.

In January, Sprint was given the authority to stop offering its operating services, which are known as Sprint Services.

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After it gains necessary regulatory approvals, Sprint said it plans to discontinue provisioning Sprint Services to its remaining customers on around September 15.

Sprint said in its filing that the proposed shutdown of these services won't have a large effect on current customers since there are a number of alternative sources they can get from cable operators, wireline operators and wireless providers.

"The proposed discontinuance will not result in material harm to the affected customers because they easily can obtain alternative services from other wireline interexchange carriers," wrote Sprint in its filing. "Customers also may purchase substitute long-distance services and features from wireless carriers such as Sprint or from a host of other alternative providers such as interconnected voice over Internet protocol providers."

News of the shutdown of the wireline long-distance voice service should be of no great surprise. The service provider's voice revenues have continued to decline in recent years.

During its fiscal fourth quarter of 2014, the service provider reported that wireline voice service revenues were $264 million, down from $289 million in the same period in 2013.

Rumors about the fate of Sprint's wireline network have continued to swirl since Marcelo Claure took the helm as CEO.

Claure incited rumors about the future of Sprint's wireline business during the company's third-quarter earnings call by suggesting that Sprint was open to selling its wireline assets, a deal which would have allowed it to focus all of its attention on its growing wireless business.

However, in February Claure told investors that the business is strategic in letting it compete in the wireless business. It will continue to use the existing wireline network to deliver MPLS-based solutions to Sprint's business customers

Regardless of Sprint's broader wireline intentions, the service provider's impending exit out of the long-distance voice business is the end of a long era for the company that dates back to the early 1980s.

Following the demise of the Bell System in 1984, Sprint and MCI (now Verizon Business) were pioneers in the long-distance voice business, offering services over a 100 percent digital fiber network that was completed in 1987.

The service provider enhanced its consumer profile in 1986 when it began showing its "pin drop" commercials as a way to popularize its long distance service under the Sprint brand name.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (.pdf)

Related articles:
Sprint's Claure: Wireline assets are strategic for competing in wireless
Sprint's new CEO open to selling wireline business
Sprint's Draper: Access to competitive wholesale backhaul will drive wireless network growth, services

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