Sprint Grows Subscribers and Cuts Churn, Despite Verizon iPhone

Sprint Nextel on Thursday announced adding 1.1 million wireless subscribers in the first quarter of 2011, reflecting its best quarter of customer adds in five years. 

Sprint, the nations third-largest mobile operator, also said it recorded its lowest postpaid churn (1.81 percent) and prepaid churn (4.36 percent) in more than five years.

That means fewer subscribers are leaving Sprint.

The company primarily attributed its improvement in postpaid churn to progress in brand health, handset offerings and overall customer perception.”

Operating revenues rose 3 percent year over year to $8.3 billion as Sprint posted a lower net loss ($439 million or 15 cents per share) than anticipated. In the quarter a year ago, Sprint lost $865 million.

Sprints subscriber growth reflected net additions of 732,000 retail subscribers and 389,000 wholesale and affiliate customers.

The company still lost about 114,000 postpaid subscribers during the quarter. But that figure reflected an 80 percent improvement over the same period a year ago.

Analysts appeared to be impressed with Sprints results.

The postpaid net adds was the one area below expectations. Everything else looked solid,” Reuters quoted Pacific Crest analyst Steve Clement.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint has been trying to stay competitive with its larger rivals, AT&T the mobile operator that has asked U.S. regulators for permission to acquire T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, which introduced Apple’s iPhone in February and has been rolling out a fourth-generation network based on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard.  

In spite of Verizons iPhone launch and aggressive competitive responses to it, our simple and unlimited plans, 4G leadership, strong customer service, and successful multi-brand strategy drove solid Sprint performance for the quarter,” Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said.

Sprint now serves about 51 million customers, including 33 million postpaid subscribers, 13.1 million prepaid subscribers and roughly 4.9 million wholesale and affiliate customers. 

Thanks partly to data add-on charges for smartphones, wireless postpaid average monthly revenue per user climbed to $56.

Sprint said it has introduced or announced 22 4G devices, representing what it said is the largest 4G portfolio of any wireless operator in the United States. Introduced in the first quarter, the HTC EVO Shift 4G is Sprints third 4G phone.

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