Sprint has announced that it will cut 4000 jobs. Further it will pull back on some of its retail efforts, and cull some of its affiliates. It lost 638,000 subscribers. Holy guacamole.

So, clearly things aren’t headed in the right direction for Sprint. The problem isn’t the product. Sure the network isn’t as good as Verizon’s, but I am a Sprint subscriber and I rarely have problems with my coverage. The value proposition is essentially the same as the big two carriers, but Sprint is hemmoraging while others continue to enjoy growth.

The issue revolves around messaging. Verizon has been using the “Can you hear me now” guy for years. ATT masterfully negotiated the Cingular transition (why they spent $1b to do it is beyond me, Cingular was a good name and a good brand). But ATT has been consistent in messaging (more bars in more places). What has Sprint’s messaging been? Sprint Speed? Power Up? We used to be Nextel?

The issue for Sprint is not the product, but rather the message. Sprint has lacked the vision (resources?) and leadership to create a brand message and see it through. That hurts customer acquisition. The other issues that Sprint has around cost of service calls from its subscribers, and their inability to fix basic billing issues has been problematic and that impinges on the subscriber base. So what happens when you can’t acquire new customers and you have problems servicing the ones that you do? Well, you lose a subscribers at an alarming rate.

Sprint needs to hire new marketing folks. Hire a new ad agency. And get some differentiated phones. ATT has the iPhone. Verizon the Voyager. T-Mo makes a big deal out of multi-colored Pearls. Sprint…ahhh….well…they have the Upstage?

Sprint needs to focus on customers, phones, customers, and customers.

I think Sprint is too big to buy, and too big to fail. Do they just become the network that powers MVNOs? Do they become subserviant to their cable JV partners? Many folks predict that Google will buy Sprint. I can’t figure out whay that deal makes any sense. What do you think happens?

Here is my prediction: By 2011, Sprint is still the #3 carrier, but they are constantly battling with T-Mo for that spot. And nobody notices.