Sprint races into satellite orbit

The long-distance carrier plans to bundle EchoStar's Dish Network satellite television with local phone service in 18 states.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
Sprint on Tuesday joined the growing number of telephone companies that plan to sell cable television.

The long-distance carrier said that in the next 90 days, it will bundle EchoStar Communications' Dish Network satellite television with local phone service in 18 states. Sprint did not disclose prices for the service.

Like most other traditional phone companies, Sprint is trying to fend off fierce competition from cable companies, which are competing more aggressively by offering service packages that bundle video programming, broadband Internet and voice calling. Sprint has witnessed an erosion of its local phone businesses and did not have a comparable offer for video.

The bundling strategy Sprint will use to sell cable television has worked in the past with other services, according to Michael B. Fuller, president of Sprint's local telephone division. "Through our bundle offers, 66 percent of our local consumer customers have multiple products from Sprint," he said in a statement.

Verizon Communications and the three other regional Bell operating companies have banded with satellite TV providers, including DirecTV, to package their voice and data offerings with video.

The phone-satellite pacts vary in depth. Under BellSouth's joint venture with DirecTV, the phone company markets and sells the service, schedules equipment installations and runs all the billing. SBC Communications took its pact with EchoStar's Dish Network a step further, investing $500 million in the company as proof of its commitment. Qwest Communications' agreement with EchoStar entails the marketing and sales of Dish Network subscriptions.