Sprint, SK Telecom Reportedly Discussing Partnership

The venture between the carriers could lead to new handsets and services, and see SK Telecom invest in Sprint.
Sprint Nextel and SK Telecom are reportedly discussing a strategic partnership to develop new handsets and services.

The talks are in the preliminary stages and involve SK Telecom making a minority investment in the U.S. wireless company, a source told The Wall Street Journal. Sprint had previously rejected a $5 billion investment offer by SK Telecom last fall.

Both companies operate a CDMA network for wireless service, and this would make collaboration on new handsets easier, according to the Journal. Representatives from Sprint and SK Telecom did not comment.

Sprint is the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. market, with about 53 million subscribers. The wireless company has seen its revenue and profits steadily decline since the 2005 acquisition of Nextel, and Sprint has long been a rumored target for acquisition by Deutsche Telekom.

But Sprint has seen a bit of a rebound recently with the Samsung Instinct flying off the shelves, and many customers liking its "Simply Everything" plan. The company expects to have an improved customer turnover rate for the second quarter.

SK Telecom is South Korea's largest wireless provider, with about 22 million subscribers. The company first dabbled in the U.S. wireless market when it was the majority shareholder of the mobile virtual network operator Helio.

Despite critically acclaimed handsets like the Ocean, Helio failed to attract many subscribers, and it was acquired by Virgin Mobile for $39 million last month.

Sprint shares rose after business channel CNBC reported SK Telecom was seeking to purchase Sprint outright earlier Tuesday. But, sources told the Journal that the discussions are only about a technology collaboration and not an acquisition.

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