Southern Pacific Railways began to offer "common carrier" telecom services (SPRINT) during the 1970s era, paralleling what MCI had also begun doing. At first, it was private line services, but over time, combinations of private line with switched long haul services emerged, and finally "fully switched" OCC (Other Common Carrier) services.
In the early 1980s, GTE bought out SPRINT from Southern Pacific Railways. In the early 1980s, their 950-xxxx feature group 'B' dial-up access number was 950-0777, the '777' for 'SPR', and their initial post-divestiture feature group 'D' equal-access dial-around code was10-777.
Also happening during the early 1980s was that the independent telco group owner United (which was one of about four or five or six of the larger ones, the others being GTE, Contel, Centel, and also Alltel, CenturyTel, PTI, etc) was developing their own 'OCC' long-distance network called "US Telecom". Their access number was (is) 950-1033, and their dial-around was 10-333 (now 101-0333).
In 1986, GTE and United decided to "join forces" and merge their OCC long-distance networks. The new joint-venture would be called "US Sprint", owned 50/50 by GTE and United. It would take some time for the networks and billing departments of "US Sprint" to be properly merged and operating "seamlessly". In the first couple of years of "US Sprint", there were numerous billing errors! (Not that they didn't have significant billing errors or broken promises throughout the1990s as well!).
After a year or two of the "US Sprint" joint-venture of GTE and United, GTE suddenly announced that they "wanted out" of Sprint. It was decided that over the next five or so years, that United would slowly buy out GTE's ownership of "US Sprint". So, every year, if you read the reports of who owned what, United would have larger shares of Sprint, and GTE would have less.
By 1992 or so, GTE had completely exited Sprint, with United owning all of Sprint. Also about the same time, GTE and Continental Telephone (Contel) merged, with the GTE name surviving. There were long time Contel service areas sold off, as well as some long-time GTE service areas sold off too, to comply with antitrust laws. Alltel and Citizens Tel bought up these one-time GTE and Contel service areas. There were also a few Alltel areas that were sold to GTE at the same time, sort of a "swap" of some GTE/Contel and Alltel areas! Also during the1992/93 time period, United also bought out Central Telephone (Centel). Some legacy Centel areas included Tallahassee FL, large areas of Virginia, parts of Illinois (including the one-time Step-by-Step Chicago suburbs of Park Ridge and Des Plaines, later sold in 1996 to Illinois Bell/Ameritech now SBC/AT&T), and the Las Vegas NV Metro area. The combined United (which now owned 100% of Sprint) with Centel, changed its name to Sprint around 1993.
The Sprint Local Telco areas of southern, central, and also scattered in parts of northern Florida is mostly all legacy United. Tallahassee FL and a few other areas of northwestern (panhandle) FL are legacy Centel.
Sprint has also become involved in Cellular.
Sprint-Canada was a marketing name of Call-Net (Canada), a CLEC and Canadian-based OCC (competitive Long Distance carrier). More recently, Rogers (which at one time was in a venture with the old Unitel, also once known as AT&T-Canada), has bought out Call-Net in Canada. I think that the Rogers name will replace the Sprint-Canada and the Call-Net names.
Earlier in 2005, Sprint bought out Nextel wireless. It's going to take some time before the Nextel name is completely replaced with the Sprint name, but Sprint did announce that it was retaining wireless and long distance. The legacy incumbent local telco operation (once known as United and Centel) is going to be spun-off to a new entity altogather but the name of this entity is still TBA.
At the time that Sprint tookover Nextel, the red/white "diamond" logo (in use since 1986 with the GTE and United joint-venture of US-Sprint) was abandoned (although it will take time for embedded advertizing signage, etc. to be completely replaced), the new Sprint-Nextel logo being black, with black text, on a yellow background (similar to pre-merger Nextel), the black logo itself now being something that looks like bird-feathers fuffling or book-pages being rifled.
So, Sprint has had quite a colorful history dating back over 30 years. And I'm defining Sprint by the OCC long distance aspect of the company and name. Its one time owner United has a history that does indeed go back over 100 years, as an independent local telephone company that seems to have begun in the Kansas area in the 1890s or early 1900s.
And it was around 1992/93 (NOT 1998), that United changed its name to Sprint, since United now owned all 100% of Sprint, in the transition completely from GTE ownership over to United ownership.
- anthony bellanga