Even Sprint beat AT&T and Verizon in customer growth

An end-of-year surge in signups suggests Sprint is starting to pull itself out of a death spiral at last.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

Sprint's customer growth continues to see momentum.

Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Customers are turning to Sprint again.

In fact, they're starting to look to the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier over stalwarts like AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The company said it added 405,000 net new post-paid subscribers -- people who pay at the end of the month and tend to be more loyal. Of that total, 368,000 were phone customers, Sprint's highest rate of growth in four years.

The numbers suggest Sprint is starting to pull itself out of a death spiral, reversing years of losses, customers faced with poor service and a network that lagged behind the competition. Sprint's customer growth came at a time when all the carriers were aggressive with holiday promotions. It's a trend that will likely continue, resulting in more potential deals for consumers.

"Sprint is turning the corner," CEO Marcelo Claure said in the company's fiscal third-quarter report on Tuesday.

Claure has injected some life into Sprint with a campaign that essentially boils down to this: We're good enough for your business. The company's commercials play up its half-off plans versus the competition (the rates go up after two years) and a mere 1 percent difference between the quality of its network and that of Verizon. To keep the momentum going, Sprint last week unveiled a temporary offer of $50 a month for unlimited data.

Earlier this month, Verizon reported adding 167,000 net new phone customers in the fourth quarter, while AT&T lost 67,000 postpaid phone customers. T-Mobile released some of its customer growth numbers early, including the addition of 933,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter.

Sprint also added 673,000 wholesale customers, but lost 501,000 prepaid customers in the period. The quarter had traditionally been a strong one for the company, but competition from the likes of AT&T's Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile's MetroPCS has taken its toll.

The postpaid customer turnover rate improved slightly to 5.8 percent from 5.82 percent a year ago, although it ticked up from the September quarter.

All this growth came at a price. The company lost $479 million, or 12 cents a share, although that is narrower than the year-ago loss of $836 million, or 21 cents a share.

Revenue rose 5.5 percent to $8.55 billion, below analysts' average forecast of $8.69 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.

Still, the customer growth was likely to enough to put investors in a good mood. Shares of the company rose 0.1 percent to $9.12 in premarket trading.

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