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Sprint's subscriber loss not as bad as it could have been

The carrier, which is waiting for a court to decide whether it can merge with T-Mobile, lost fewer customers than expected, but it also missed revenue expectations.

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It could have been worse. That's the consensus for Sprint's earnings for the fourth quarter of calendar 2019, in which the beleaguered carrier lost fewer wireless customers than expected.

The company said it lost 115,000 postpaid phone subscribers during the quarter, which ended Dec 31. Analysts had expected it to lose 160,000 subscribers, according to a report from Reuters, citing the research firm FactSet. Postpaid subscribers pay their bills at the end of the month and are considered the most valuable customers in wireless.

Sprint's churn rate for postpaid customers, or the rate at which customers ditch their service, was 1.87% compared with 1.75% a year ago. 

The wireless carrier also reported total revenue of $8.08 billion, missing analyst expectations of $8.19 billion. Its revenue dipped 6% compared with the same quarter a year ago. 

The grim news comes as the fourth largest wireless provider in the US awaits the outcome of its $26 billion merger with T-Mobile. The merger, announced in 2018, has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the US Department of Justice. But a group of states attorneys general led by California and New York are suing to stop the merger. 

A two-week trial in federal court in New York started in December. Earlier this month the court heard closing arguments from both sides. If the merger is allowed to go through, the combined company would be roughly equal in size to AT&T and to Verizon Communications, the nation's two largest wireless carriers. 

Sprint CEO Michael Combes said in a statement that the merger with T-Mobile is the best way forward for the company. 

"I continue to be impressed by the commitment of Sprint employees to deliver results during this period of uncertainty," he said. "As we await a decision in the state attorneys general lawsuit, I continue to believe the merger with T-Mobile is the best way to deliver the benefits of competition to American consumers."

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