Japan’s Softbank buys Sprint because CEO Son says U.S. networks too slow

U.S. car manufacturers decades ago milked profits out of poor technology and got outcompeted by Japan on both quality and price. The same thing is happening right now with fast Internet service. We may not have to wait for Verizon and AT&T to get around to offering affordable fast 4G LTE Internet service: Sprint may do it first, now that Japan’s Softbank is stepping in.

Roger Chang wrote for CNET News 15 October 2012, Japan’s Softbank poised to supercharge Sprint network: Softbank CEO complains that U.S. networks are too slow, and with his $20 billion bid for Sprint, he aims to do something about that.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son isn’t impressed with the high-speed wireless networks in the United States.

“Everytime I come to the U.S., I say ‘Oh my God, the mobile phone network is so slow,'” Son said during a conference call with analysts today.

Now, Son is in a position to change things to his liking after Softbank and Sprint Nextel agreed on a deal in which Softbank would take a 70 percent stake in the U.S. carrier.

Sprint, which has struggled as a distant No. 3 carrier behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless, could get a boost from the deal, in which Softbank spends $12.1 billion to buy the controlling stake and another $8 billion in investment into the company.

What’s he aiming at improving?

That’d be a boon to Sprint consumers who are left waiting for faster 4G LTE service even as Verizon and AT&T aggressively roll out their respective networks. Son said that on average, Japanese wireless networks were much faster than their U.S. counterparts, and he looked forward to bringing speed to these shores.

“I think we can provide much better competitive technology and services that U.S. citizens have never experienced,” he said.

This is the same Masayoshi Son who pestered the Japanese government to let Softbank sell DSL back in 2000, and then invested heavily in infrastructure and marketing, eventually making a profit five years later. As a result, Japan gained a decade-long lead in Internet speeds over the U.S. By lead, I mean 100Mbps everywhere and 1Gbps some places.

A professor I know says he gets 100Mbps where he lives in Manhattan. Do you? In Japan the fast speeds started with NTT West, which connects the less densely populated parts of the country, not Tokyo. And to get the fastest speeds, they switched technologies, from DSL over copper to FTTH, Fiber to the Home. Not just faster speeds: also much less expensive than the U.S.

In the U.S., it looks like Son-san is about to leapfrog over our slug-like DSL and cable TV and bypass FTTH to get us affordable fast Internet speeds over the air.

As I wrote six years ago:

Will we see the next leap in wireless technology come from China, or India, or Africa, and get sold back to the U.S.?

So the answer is: from Japan, leveraging technology originally invented in the U.S., just like happened many years ago with automobiles.