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Sprint loses another 1.3 million wireless customers

Despite losses Sprint CEO Hesse touts progress in customer service

By Brad Reed, Network World
November 07, 2008 11:03 AM ET

Network World - Sprint Nextel posted a net loss of $326 million for the third quarter of 2008, punctuated by the loss of another 1.3 million wireless subscribers for the quarter.

In its third-quarter earnings report released today, Sprint reported that it had net operating revenues of $8.8 billion for the third quarter of 2008, down 12% from the $10 billion in revenues that it posted in the third quarter of 2007. For the year, the company has reported a net loss of nearly $1.2 billion.

Sprint's major troubles continued to be in its wireless segment, which posted a net loss of $250 million for the third quarter of this year, compared to a net income of $514 million for the third quarter of 2007. The company reported losing another 1.3 million wireless subscribers for the quarter, thus giving the carrier a total of 50.5 million wireless subscribers nationwide. Since the third quarter of 2007, Sprint has shed a total of 3.5 million customers, and the company's wireless segment has lost $645 million so far in 2008.

Despite the continued gloomy numbers for Sprint, CEO Dan Hesse today emphasized the positive and said that the company was turning the corner on some of its problems. In particular, he said that Sprint had made major strides in both its customer service and its call quality. Earlier this year, Sprint won an award from consumer ratings group J.D. Power for having the highest wireless call quality in the southwestern United States, and J.D. Power President Steve Goodall said that Sprint had shown quality improvements in five of the six major regions throughout the United States. Even so, Sprint generally lagged behind in call quality throughout most of the country, with Verizon Wireless, Alltel and US Cellular dominating call-quality ratings in all other regions.

Hesse also touted the launch of Sprint's WiMAX network in Baltimore last week, as well as the recently approved merger between the company's WiMAX division and Clearwire, as evidence that the company had a bright future in delivering next-generation mobile broadband services.

Since taking over as Sprint's CEO late last year, Hesse has placed an emphasis primarily on improving customer service, which has been a trouble spot for the company. In recent years, the company has experienced continued difficulties in integrating former Nextel users into the Sprint network, in investor nervousness over the future of its $5 billion WiMAX investment and in a shrinking subscriber base.

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

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