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Sprint: Total Q4 Wireless Subs Up, Retail Postpaid Phone Subs Down

Overland Park, Kan. — Sprint gained 1.21 million net new wireless subscribers in its fiscal fourth quarter ending March 31, compared to a year-ago loss of 467,000, helping boost full-year net adds to 2.25 million compared to a year-ago loss of 2.34 million subscribers.

Sprint, however, is still losing retail postpaid phone subscribers, who generate higher revenues than retail prepaid subscribers, postpaid tablet and connected-device subscriptions, and wholesale subscriptions.

Verizon and AT&T also lost retail postpaid phone subscribers in the fourth quarter.

Sprint’s 1.21 million net adds in the quarter came mainly from retail prepaid net adds of 528,000 and from 514,000 wholesale and affiliate net adds. Retail postpaid net adds, in contrast, came only to 170,000, thanks in large part to about 349,000 retail postpaid tablet net adds offsetting retail postpaid phone losses of about 201,000.

With the gains, Sprint’s total subscriber base comes to 57.1 million, up from the year-ago 54.9 million, allowing Sprint to remain the third-largest carrier by subscriber count. T-Mobile remains in fourth place with 56.8 million despite two years of high growth.

Sprint’s wireless operating revenues fell 5.8 percent in the quarter to $7.77 billion but were up 35.3 percent for the year to $32.3 billion. Wireless operating income in the quarter slipped 35 percent to $320 million from the year-ago period, but for the year, operating losses grew to $1.46 billion from a year-ago loss of $438 million.

Remarking on the quarter’s performance, CEO Marcelo Claure said he is “proud of the team for successfully executing the first phase of our strategy to stop the decline in customers.”

Now, he said, “we are now one quarter into the second phase, focusing on attracting more quality customers, retaining our customers through a better customer experience, and continuously improving the network.”

Sprint has set a goal of growing its retail postpaid phone base in fiscal 2015, he added.

In other remarks, Claure said Sprint-owned cellular departments in RadioShack stores will represent one of the company’s lowest costs of acquiring new subscribers. Operating costs are lower than in freestanding Sprint-owned stores, he explained, because the company pays only a percentage of rent and utilities and needs only 1 one to 1.5 employees to manage each department.

More than 500 departments are already in operation with Sprint employees, but the other 1,000 are still operated for now by RadioShack employees. With the rollout, Sprint will operate 2,400 company-owned stores, up from only 1,000, Claure said.

Subscribers by segment: In other subscriber metrics, the company said its total fourth-quarter net adds included 170,000 retail postpaid net adds compared to a year-ago loss of 333,000. Total retail prepaid net adds hit 528,000 from a year-ago loss of 415,000. Wholesale and affiliate net ads grew to 514,000 compared to a year-ago gain of 281,000.

For the year, the company lost 430,000 retail postpaid subscribers compared to a previous-year loss of 1.98 million. Total retail prepaid net adds hit 260,000 compared to a year-ago loss of 929,000. Wholesale and affiliate net adds for the year rose to 2.42 million, up from the prior year’s 574,000.