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updated 8/9/2004 5:04:49 PM ET 2004-08-09T21:04:49

Sprint Corp. is putting its money where its network is.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based telecom said Monday it will offer service level agreements to new and renewing business wireless subscribers guaranteeing that if they have more than minimal problems with their voice service, up to 30 percent of that month's recurring charges are free.

Brownlee Thomas, a telecommunications analyst for Boston-based Forrester Research, said such agreements are not new in the industry but are usually negotiated privately for favored, large customers and not offered on a general basis like Sprint's.

"I think it is a market lead," Thomas said. "I think this will be very appealing for the very large enterprise customers who have consolidated billing."

It also reflects the ongoing efforts of Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier, to capture a larger share of business customers, as well as a mark of the company's confidence in its nationwide wireless network.

Vicki Warker, vice president of product and marketing for Sprint's Business Solutions division, said the company has invested $1.1 billion so far this year in network upgrades.

"A lot of that went to improving our coverage and service quality, which allows us to make these (agreements) available," Warker said.

She said Sprint developed the agreements after surveys showed a majority of businesses said they would choose a carrier based on having such guarantees. The company already offers service level agreements to wireline data customers.

"We did a fair amount of research to understand what business customers are looking for, and clearly they're looking for reliability and predictability," she said. "It's an important statement that this is wireless for business."

Only new and renewing accounts paid for by a company are eligible for the agreements, the company said. Individual customers, even if they use their phone primarily for business, can't get the guarantees.

The discounts kick in if the national average for wireless voice service dips beneath three benchmarks:

  • 2 percent or less of calls being unsuccessful while in the Sprint PCS coverage area.
  • 2 percent or less of calls being ending unexpectedly while in the coverage area.
  • Less than 99.9 percent network availability.

Customers can use a secure Web site to track their service benchmarks, said spokesman Paul Baltzer.

The company said the guarantees don't apply if the customer is in roaming mode or during natural disasters.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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