Sprint Boosted by Unlimited Data, Subscriber Growth

Shares of Sprint Nextel Corp. surged higher Thursday after a financial analyst said the carrier has been taking customers from rivals.

Jennifer Fritzsche, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo, said in a note that Sprint is attracting users from AT&T and T-Mobile, Bloomberg reported. The analyst also said customers like Sprint’s unlimited data plans and its handset selection including the iPhone.

AT&T no longer offers unlimited data to new customers, and the carrier has faced criticism over its decision to lower speeds for some customers still on the unlimited plan.

T-Mobile USA has been handicapped, in part, by its lack of an iPhone offering and failed $39 billion merger with AT&T. Excluding connected devices, T-Mobile lost 706,000 branded customers on contract in the fourth quarter.

Philipp Humm, president and CEO of T-Mobile USA, said last month that “not carrying the iPhone led to a significant increase in contract deactivations in the fourth quarter of 2011.”

In October 2011, Apple introduced the iPhone 4S and granted Sprint the right for the first time to sell the smartphone. Of the four largest U.S. mobile-phone operators, only T-Mobile USA didn’t reach an agreement with Apple sell the iPhone 4S.

Sales of the iPhone helped Sprint grow its subscriber base in the fourth quarter, reflecting its best quarterly results in six years with 1.6 million customer additions.

Sprint’s stock price on Thursday rose 7.61 percent to nearly $2.62 as of 3:30 ET.

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