Kara Swisher

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Sprint’s Hesse Shows Off Post-SoftBank With a “Spark” of Speed

Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse landed in Silicon Valley today, in his most prominent appearance here after the completion of the carrier’s $21.6 billion acquisition by Japan’s SoftBank for 80 percent of the company.

That included the launch of six new devices on its network in November and a touting of a number of new features, especially its Sprint Spark, an offering of ultra-fast wireless data speeds that would be among the fastest around.

The 60-megabits-per-second service is being deployed today in five cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Miami — but hopes to be in 100 U.S. cities over the next several years.

The first smartphones that will be able to use Sprint Spark will include Samsung’s Galaxy Mega and S4 mini. Without going all geeky on you — and this event in Silicon Valley was certainly that — you need tri-band hardware that can use all of Sprint’s spectrum bands on one device to get that fast.

And while it kept some of the Spark devices under wraps, one of them appeared to be Google’s Nexus 5.

In fact, when one reporter made a joke with that number, a Sprint exec gave a knowing grin. Heh.

Mostly, it was a day of showing off beyond LTE. All the carriers now have that and the race is to cover more cities. But the new battle is shaping up over offering the fastest speeds.

In other words, who has the most wireless airwaves and who can take advantage of them? Who is bigger and better is the oldest rivalry in the world and so it is in mobile, too (as well as with my two sons).

“What can you do with unlimited speeds?” said Hesse of the Sprint Innovation Lab in Burlingame, Calif., where the company works with partners to test devices.

Hesse said the No. 3 mobile provider — well behind AT&T and Verizon — was doing a “rip and replace” of its current network.

The appearance comes after Sprint reported its third-quarter earnings earlier today with net income of $383 million, even though Sprint had an operating loss of $398 million, due to a one-time $1.45 billion gain from its Clearwire deal.

Sprint also said it had lost 360,000 contract subscribers, which was still better than expected by analysts.

Hesse talked about the pluses, such as its activation of LTE — called fourth-generation coverage — in 45 new markets and also the Spark technology that Sprint had demonstrated in the lab could reach one gigabit per second. Sprint has hopes eventually for even higher speeds.

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