TELECOMMS COMPANY HISTORY PROFILES

The story of SPRINT (or at least some of it)

HISTORY OF SPRINT, from Telecom Digest

 * From:* Jack Dominey domineys(at)mindspring.com

The Southern Pacific Co. had a microwave network along its tracks, so when MCI got going, they joined in the fun too. It was originally called SPCC (Southern Pacific Communications Corp.). They came up with the name "Sprint" in an internal contest to come up with a name for a new service, and it caught on.

GTE bought SPCC from Southern Pacific. The long-distance network became known as GTE Sprint. GTE also bought Telenet from BBN ca. 1980), and put Telenet under Sprint. This evolved into Sprint's Internet operation.

In the early 1980s, GTE sold part of Sprint to United Telecommunications, and it became US Sprint. A few years later, GTE sold the rest of Sprint (which was still losing money, something GTE didn't like to do) to United. While Sprint the LD company was more than twice the size of United, the profitable regulated telco swallowed it up Pac-man style. It then changed its corporate name to Sprint Corp. The United Telephone companies eventually became "Sprint local", as did Centel, which Sprint (the former United) gobbled up in the early 1990s.

There never was an independent Sprint LD operation, though it's now the tail that wags the dog in Kansas City.

 

*From:* FGOLDSTEIN@wn1.wn.net (Fred R. Goldstein)

I vaguely recall hearing that Sprint started as Southern Pacific Rail INternal Telecom, building its original network along SPR right-of-way.

 

*From:* Dan Srebnick <dan@islenet.com>

Regarding the comments on the history of Sprint, I can recall the following. The current Sprint operation can be traced back to a company called US Telecom. I was their customer back in 1987 when they bought Sprint from SPC (?). The new company was known as US Sprint, but used the corporate name United Telecom. Sometime later, the US was dropped and the company formerly known as United Telecom became known as Sprint. Then in the late 80s, Sprint purchased the long distance operations of GTE.

United Telecom traded under the ticker symbol UT. Sprint was known for some time by the stock ticker SPRT, but later changed to the ticker symbol FON. I owned some shares of United Telecom and later Sprint, so I'm fairly clear on the details.

 

*From:* ctill@mindspring.com (Chuck Till)

Pre-1982, the companies were United Telecom and GTE. The sequence of events is:

United Telecom buys two long-distance resellers, Isacomm and US Telephone. Meanwhile, GTE buys Sprint from Southern Pacific Railroad.

At this point, United Telecom and GTE are separate, and their long-distance operations are competitors. United Telecom develops a plan to run fiber nation-wide and to compete with AT&T on a much larger scale than GTE could with Sprint, which was a facilities-based carrier only in parts of the country and was a reseller elsewhere.

Next, United Telecom and GTE pool their long-distance operations and form a partnership (not a corporation) called US Sprint. United Telecom is the dominant partner.

Later, US Sprint is renamed simply Sprint. United Telecom buys out GTE's share in the partnership and becomes sole owner of Sprint.

Finally, United Telecom renames itself Sprint and applies the Sprint brand to the local telephone operations that it had before 1982. GTE continues as a local telephone company until discussions start with Bell Atlantic.

 

*From:* Jack Daniel <JackDaniel@RFSolutions.com>

Pat, my fading and erratic memory realls SPRINT beginning as result of an FCC ruling that allowed private non-telco companies to resell excess microwave capacity in the first 'by-pass' of AT&T long distance services.

The best known was Goshen's little company called Microwave Communications Inc (just called "MCI" now) that wanted to provide alternate long distance circuits for trucking companies and the instigator of the Carterphone decision later.

Southern Pacific Railroad had a large private microwave network with excess capacity, so they ventured forth to resell that capacity to others. They called this division "Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Technologies" or something very similar. The railroad later sold off this division but it retained the abbreviated name, "SPRINT". I personally sold equipment to the SPRINT group in San Francisco.

I'm sure the company's roots are over 100 years old if you include the railroad portion. Maybe starting with railway telegraph ?

Disclaimer: I'm sure others will immediately expand upon and extensively correct any misconceptions I have about this story.

 

*From:* John R. Myers <jmyers@netcom.com>

Jack Daniel <JackDaniel@rfsolutions.com> wrote:

> I'm sure the company's roots are over 100 years old if you include the railroad portion. Maybe starting with railway telegraph ?

 

Pat, I can confirm this version of the story. I jumped into the Southern Pacific Communications Company shortly after Congress acted on the resale and sharing question. One time I borrowed a slide show from the Marketing folks to liven up a rather dull professional talk. (They had some dramatic shots of helicopters delivering microwave towers to snowcapped mountains, etc.) The script for the marketing talk made the point that the Southern Pacific Company was incorporated under a Federal (not State) charter more than a hundred years ago to build and operate railroad and telegraph lines.

Of course, this little story has no bearing on the question of how the present-day Sprint can claim to have been in business for a hundred years!

 

*From:* blw1540@aol.comxxnospam (Bruce Wilson)

> My fading and erratic memory realls SPRINT beginning as result of an FCC ruling that allowed private non-telco companies to resell excess microwave capacity in the first 'by-pass' of AT&T long distance services.

Yep. The "foot in the door" was their being allowed to operate as "private line" carriers, so a company with geographically diverse locations would contract with them to link its various sites, but the public at large couldn't just dial into and use the networks.

 

> The best known was Goshen's little company called Microwave Communications Inc (just called "MCI" now) that wanted to provide alternate long distance circuits for trucking companies and the instigator of the Carterphone decision later.

I think Carterphone began process of opening up the terminal equipment market, beginning with answering machines. (It's hard to believe now how paranoid the telcos once were with respect to connection of "foreign equipment" to their networks.)


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