Odd couple Sprint and Nextel moved closer to a proposed merger today when shareholders for both carriers approved the move. Although the target completion date is the third quarter of this year, the union still has to win approval from the feds and in some states. If they get the go-ahead, the combined company will be called Sprint Nextel, and it will be the third-largest carrier in the country. Sprint will be the lead brand for the majority of products, while Nextel's yellow and black color scheme will predominate over Sprint's red and white. Beyond that, however, it's still uncertain how the whole thing will affect services and phone selection.
Even though the cell phone world seems to have warmed to the merger, I still think it's a bit weird. Besides operating totally separate cellular networks--Nextel has its proprietary iDEN, and Sprint uses CDMA--the two carriers have vastly different images. While Sprint attracts a broad range of customers, Nextel has long depended on a loyal base of businesspeople that love push-to-talk functionality. Plus, Nextel's bulky mobiles are a sharp contrast to Sprint's long line of silver flip phones. But on a more important note, I just don't buy the notion that the merger will benefit customers by giving them more choices. With this marriage, the number of major carriers in the United States would drop to just four--that is, if T-Mobile isn't gobbled up as well. It all seems like fewer choices to me.