Sprint traces its history back to 1899, when Cleyson and Jacob Brown started the Brown Telephone Company to provide telephone service to the farms surrounding Abilene, Kansas. By 1911 the company joined more than a dozen other independent service providers to form the United Telephone Company, eventually becoming United Telecommunications by the mid-1960s.
The name Sprint was originally an acroynm that stood for Switched Private Network Telecommunications, a rebranded switched voice service from Southern Pacific Communications (SPC). SPC and GTE would merge in the early 1980s, and United Telecom merged with that organization shortly thereafter. By 1992, the new organization was called Sprint Corp.
Sprint's expansion into nationwide wireless service began in the mid-1990s, acquiring 1900 MHz PCS spectrum and building out a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network — the same communications technology (operating at different frequencies) that powers rival Verizon's nationwide wireless network.
By 2004 Sprint announced a merger with fellow telecom company Nextel, an integration that ultimately proved difficult thanks to different network footprints and disparate technologies in use. Sprint Nextel spent much of the first decade of the new millennium acquiring affiliate carriers.
While Sprint has divested itself of local landline holdings, the company continues to derive revenue from long-distance service and through its Internet services. Sprint is a Tier 1 ISP that resells its services to major corporations and smaller ISPs.
In October 2012 Sprint was acquired by Japanese telecom company SoftBank, which presently owns 80 percent of the company.
Sprint had hoped to build out a next-generation wireless network using 2.5 GHz WiMAX, a technology operated by Clearwire Corp., which was acquired by Sprint. That effort failed, and the company has been migrating its customers to LTE instead.
Sprint was the third major U.S. carrier to begin selling the iPhone, which it did in late 2011.