Fewer-Than-Expected Subs Dump Sprint for Rivals

While AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all celebrated subscriber gains in the first quarter of 2014, Sprint will have to be satisfied with losing fewer than forecasters had predicted.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based operator released its Q1 earnings report Tuesday morning, noting that it lost 231,000 subscribers, about 5 percent fewer than the 244,000 that Wall Street was expecting. That, plus news that it added a significant number of tablet PC customers, was enough to push the carrier’s stock price up more than 11 percent.

“We are beginning to see churn improvements after a few months but it takes longer to see improvements in gross adds,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse on a post-earnings call, according to Reuters.

The news wasn’t so great on the smartphone front. Sprint added the fewest number of new customers for handsets than it has in five years.

It’s been a busy several months for Sprint, which is still expanding its 4G LTE network nationwide and adapting to its new ownership. SoftBank of Japan bought 80 percent of the carrier last year.

Sprint hopes its recently announced “Framily” plan – which gives discounts to friends and families when they sign up in groups – will give it a boost this year. Rivals AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have all made significant new pricing moves to attract new customers.

On the financial side, Sprint’s loss narrowed to $151 million, compared to $643 million in Q1 2013. Revenue was up slightly, from $8.8 to $8.88 billion when comparing the same time periods.

All eyes will be on a potential merger with T-Mobile later this year. It’s been rumored for months that the two companies have had discussions about the possibility, but no announcement just yet.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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