1. Sprint Nextel ( S) is the third wheel to wireless telecom giants Verizon and AT&T. However, it lacks their landline legacy businesses and has significantly less wireless market share. The former is a positive, the latter a negative that Sprint is working to overcome. As wireless and data come to dominate telecom going forward, Sprint's partnership with 4G WiMax and LTE builder ClearWire will remain of paramount importance. But, in recent weeks, ClearWire voiced a need for more capital. Sprint had solid quarterly customer adds, at 644,000.

Still, its service is considered inferior to the big two and margins are falling. The operating spread narrowed two points to 16% in the latest quarter. Also, churn is notably higher than that of the other two majors. Morningstar forecasts tepid sales growth of 3% through 2014. Its profit-per-customer is a clear opportunity for improvement. Verizon generates $280, whereas Sprint generates just $100. As the debt balance is high, Sprint has been neglecting capital expenditure to boost cash and pay down debt. This is an unsustainable strategy as investment is critical to Sprint's long-run viability.

-- Written by Jake Lynch in Boston.

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