Sprint hopes growth in its new "Framily" plan will make its disappointing postpaid numbers resemble its more successful prepaid and wholesale statistics, according to one analyst.
The mobile carrier added just 58,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter, which Sprint attributed to its slow network upgrade. This is dismal compared to the other three carriers — T-Mobile brought in 869,000, Verizon gained 824,000 and AT&T added 780,000 contract customers.
But these numbers are an improvement from the customer losses from recent quarters, and Sprint did cut its net financial loss from the year-ago quarter by 22 percent, to $1 billion. Operating loss for the quarter was down about $150 million from the previous year's fourth quarter, as well, a better result than analysts expected.
Sprint's unlimited data offer should be bringing in a lot more customers than it has, though, leading the carrier to turn to its new Framily plan. The pricing program allows new and existing customers to add both friends and family to a group, increasing their savings.
"In short, Sprint must plug the holes in its LTE network, race headlong toward its higher-capacity Spark network and continue to hunt for tactics that can steal some promotional thunder from its rivals without resorting to all-out price-slashing. That's a challenging blueprint to execute," Yankee Group senior analyst Rich Karpinski noted, commenting specifically on a CNET post. "In the end, that reality more than anything may be what's needed to convince regulators that to be a force in the market, Sprint needs a merger with T-Mobile."
If a report this week turns out to be true, Sprint might never bid for T-Mobile. Regulatory issues are a potential hangup.