updated 08:40 am EDT, Thu April 28, 2011
Sprint Q1 2011 sees best results in five years
Sprint on Thursday touted signs of recovery by getting its best cellphone customer growth in five years. It added a total of 1.1 million new users, most of which were 846,000 prepaid customers but also included 310,000 regular subscribers. The total number matched the fall but saw about five times more regular subscribers.
The company also saw its best, lowest turnover rate for subscribers, at 1.81 percent. Prepaid turnover was also the lowest in more than five years at 4.36 percent.
Sprint directly championed the performance as sign it had survived the impact of the Verizon iPhone. CEO Dan Hesse during a call discussing the results credited the performance to having simpler, sometimes cheaper plans. Unusually, he took the view that Apple's expansion to Verizon and not Sprint was still better in the long term than AT&T's previous iPhone exclusive, suggesting he was more pleased that Sprint might be an option in the future.
"Even a duopoly is better than a device monopoly," he said.
Much of the performance was due to Sprint's own smartphone mix. About 73 percent of its CDMA subscriber additions were using smartphones, it said. The company added relatively few devices that were shipping in the winter beyond the Evo Shift 4G but has repeatedly praised Android for almost single-handedly turning the company around through halo devices like the Evo 4G and Epic 4G.
Hesse took the opportunity to once more attack AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile and credited Sprint for fostering competition in the US. Sprint's presence as a real threat with 4G pushed Verizon to roll out LTE faster and in turn made AT&T move faster. AT&T's loss of iPhone exclusivity made it give customers better deals because it had legitimate concern about losing customers to rivals.
Having a strong third carrier was essential, and that would go away if AT&T could add T-Mobile, Hesse said.
Despite a tough competitive environment, Sprint still saw itself as gaining customers overall in 2011. The carrier was counting on a relatively strong lineup for the spring and summer that saw it adding flagship phones like the HTC Evo 3D and Google Nexus S 4G. The company was also getting into tablets for the first time and counting on the HTC Evo View 4G as well as the eventual release of a 4G version of the BlackBerry PlayBook in the summer.