Sprint’s 4th quarter numbers are out and the nation’s 3rd largest carrier seems pretty happy with the results. Their APRU (revenue per user) is up $3.69 on average. They increased their subscriber numbers by 1.6 million users. Plus, their iPhone efforts appeared to have worked as 40% of all new subs picked up one of those little iPhones with the unlimited data plan to match. So, what does all this mean to the end user?
Sprint is really sugar coating these numbers as the bottom line is the company ended up with a net operating loss of $438 million in the 4th quarter. To make matters worse, the company lost a total of $1.3 billion in the 4th quarter. Much of this is due to the expenses incurred with up front cost of the launch of the iPhone. This major gamble on one handset did pay off as Sprint moved a reported 1.8 million iPhones with nearly 700,00 of those devices going to new subscribers (or roughly just about everyone of Sprint’s net 4th quarter adds).
Their prepaid numbers are looking much rosier than their financial statement. Their brands like Virgin Mobile and Boost continue to build a solid following with their lower cost, month to month plans. While the devices on these prepaid options may not be the top shelf choices, the $35-60 a month, unlimited plans sure make sense to many people’s wallets. Look for this trend to continue as the economy continues to struggle and prices continue to rise on data and voice services.
Sprint is trying to place a positive spin on these numbers as revenue is up, losses are up and consumer churn is lower, but we just don’t see how their Network Vision plan is going to come to pass without some serious help from some additional resources. With the conversion to LTE coming this summer, and rolling out slowly, new device sales for Sprint should slow to a crawl until the LTE devices are in stores and online. The WiMax devices should be placed on a fire sale a soon as possible, since the sooner those 2 year agreements are up, the sooner Sprint can dismantle the network and roll more resources in to the LTE expansion.
To wrap up the 4th quarter for Sprint, the iPhone may not have saved Sprint from a spiraling death like many, or at least Dan Hesse, thought it might, but it did leave the 3rd place carrier in a solid 3rd place for yet another quarter.