The smallest nationwide carrier on Thursday posted a fiscal third-quarter loss of $141 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $7.16 billion, or $1.79 a share, which had the advantage of a huge bump from the 2018 tax reform changes.
Sprint also lost 26,000 postpaid phone customers, or people who pay at the end of the month, due to decreased promotions and higher customer defections. But overall customer growth stabilized, with 309,000 total new customers, thanks to data devices.
It also lost 173,000 customers in the prepaid area, once a strength for Sprint.
The mixed results represent a company in a holding pattern, as it works to shave costs and keep the lights on as government regulators decide upon its pending acquisition by T-Mobile. The No. 3 and No. 4 US carriers have agreed to combine and create a larger carrier to compete with bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
But it's been a long time coming, not helped by this month's US government shutdown, which meant the Federal Communications Commission couldn't work on the deal approval process. T-Mobile and Sprint are eager to close the deal, and on Wednesday promised to build five new customer service centers and create thousands of jobs if they merge.
Even as it awaits the approval, Sprint is off forging its own 5G path, noting that it still plans to launch the faster next-generation cellular service in nine markets later this year, including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. The company has deals with LG, HTC and Samsung to deliver 5G devices in 2018 .
Sprint shares rose a little over 1 percent in premarket trading to about $6.12.
5G smartphone on the way: Samsung and Verizon are teaming up to deliver it in first half of 2019.