Sprint's Wireless High Wire Act

Two cable partners want out, and talks are delicate at best

Two-and-a-half years ago, Sprint Corp. Chairman William T. Esrey saw what he thought was the communications company of the future: a joint venture with three cable-TV companies. The company would build a $9 billion digital wireless system using its personal-communications service (PCS) technology to leapfrog competitors, and it would use the cable systems to get into the local-calling business. Esrey figured the wireless part of the venture would be larger than Sprint itself by 2001.

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