Sprint continues to be an also-ran in the U.S. mobile broadband marketplace. The No. 4 operator posted comparatively anemic customer gains in Q4 while registering a loss of US$1.04 billion—although the revenue loss was a bit less than the US$1.32 billion it posted a year earlier.
the operator added just 477,000 new customers in Q4, far short of its rivals. And its new contract customers fell from 401,000 a year ago to just 58,000. That gain pales in comparison to the contract customers acquired by the other three top U.S. operators, as Verizon gained 824,000, AT&T brought in 780,000 and T-Mobile gained 869,000. Sprint attributed the issues to its comparatively slower network upgrade but hopes its new Sprint Spark network will jumpstart its fortunes.
Yankee Group Senior Analyst Rich Karpinski comments
“The most instructive way to look at Sprint and the challenges it faces is via its customer mix. It had just 58,000 postpaid additions in the quarter, far below its rivals. And that’s in an area where Sprint (with its unlimited data offer) offers the most differentiation. If all-you-can-eat data isn't appealing to valued postpaid subscribers, where does Sprint turn next? At least part of the answer is the company's new Framily plan, which aims to build loyalty and reduce churn by letting circles of families and friends share in the promotional savings. Sprint's growth, for better or worse, is healthier in less profitable sectors such as prepaid (where it nonetheless had to cut prices via a recent US$35 per month LTE promotion) and wholesale, where it now remains probably the lone aggressive player, since T-Mobile focuses more on retail these days.
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 (like its Framily plan) that can steal some promotional thunder from its rivals without resorting to all-out price-slashing. That's a challenging blueprint to execute. 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. Short of that, Sprint must execute the heck out of its current strategy while searching for its own silver bullet to help its brand break through T-Mobile's uncarrier clatter.”