For the first time in three years, Sprint is showing net subscriber growth.
Sprint's second quarter showed a gain of 111,000 net subscribers. The company added 136,000 customers on its CDMA network and 285,000 for the Sprint brand overall. Meanwhile, Sprint delivered churn of 1.85 percent, its best tally ever.
In recent quarters, Sprint has been a story about improving subscriber losses, but no net gains. Sprint's postpaid gross subscriber adds were up 46 percent from a year ago, the largest jump since 2001.
Now it appears that Sprint may be over the hump. The company cited strong demand for the 4G HTC Evo and the Blackberry Curve. To put Sprint's subscriber gains in context consider recent trends:
In the first quarter, Sprint lost 75,000 net subscribers.
In the fourth quarter of 2009, Sprint lost 69,000 net subscribers.
In the third quarter of 2009, Sprint lost 135,000 net subscribers.
In the second quarter of 2009, Sprint lost 257,000 net subscribers.
In the first quarter of 2009, Sprint lost a net 182,000 net subscribers.
In 2008, Sprint lost 4.58 million subscribers.
Through all of those rough quarters, Sprint dropped postpaid customers and largely added prepaid ones to partially offset the losses. Meanwhile, every quarterly earnings call from CEO Dan Hesse sounded roughly the same. Sprint was improving customer service and showing improving subscriber trends. After multiple quarters, Hesse finally has some subscriber gains to highlight.
This traction in the market place---Sprint also reported a bevy of customer service improvements---isn't exactly filtering to the bottom line. Sprint reported a net loss of $760 million, or 25 cents a share, on revenue of $8 billion. Wall Street was expecting a loss of 19 cents a share. Sprint had a 10 cents a share charge for deferred tax assets for a pro forma loss of 15 cents a share in the second quarter.
By the numbers:
Sprint had 48.2 million customers in the second quarter, a sum that includes 33.2 million postpaid subscribers.
The company added 173,000 prepaid subscribers.
9 percent of postpaid customers upgraded their phones in the second quarter.
Churn of 1.85 percent was better than the 2.05 percent reported in the second quarter a year ago and 2.15 percent in the first quarter. Prepaid churn was 5.61 percent in the second quarter.
As for the outlook, Sprint said in a statement that it expects to continue to add net subscribers for the rest of 2010 and cut postpaid subscriber losses in the second half.