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Sprint's LTE rollout continues to move ahead and its wireless platform set a revenue record

There's been a lot of shakeup in the cellular market between Verizon Communications Inc.'s (VZbuyout of Vodafone Plc.'s (LON:VOD) stake in Verizon Wireless for $130B USDthe merger of German telecom firm Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA brand with MetroPCS, and Japan's Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984$21.6B USD acquisition of Sprint Corp. (S), and Sprint's subsequent ~$1.8B USD ($5.00 USD/share) buyout of Clearwire.

I. Mixed Results in Q3 For Sprint

While America's fourth largest carrier -- T-Mobile USA -- saw a prompt return to profitability following its MetroPCS merger and posted net subscriber additions in Q2, Sprint's turnaround has been a slower process.

In Q3 2013, its first quarter reporting income [PDF] under Softbank's umbrella, Sprint lost 360,000 post-paid subscribers, and added 84,000 prepaid subscribers.  Due to the June closure of Sprint's IDen network, used primarily by business customers, Sprint saw a net lost of 313,000 customers across its post-paid and pre-paid brands.

While T-Mobile has yet to report its Q3 results (and will do so Nov. 5), Sprint's losses stack up unfavorable compared to rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Inc. (T), America's first and second place carriers, respectively.  Verizon Wireless added 927,000 new subscribers in Q3, while AT&T tacked on 363,000.

Sprint sign
Sprint continues to bleed customers. [Image Source: Lisa Poole/AP]

As the Softbank deal and Clearwire acquisition only wrapped up midway through Q3, it may be too early to say how the pairing of the highly successful Japanese carrier, with the struggling American carrier is stacking up.

Sprint reported mixed results for its average revenue per user (ARPU).  ARPU among postpaid (contract) customers was up on a quarter-to-quarter basis, but prepaid ARPU fell.  Wireless revenue did set a record of $7.3B USD, a bright spot on the earnings report and the Sprint brand revenue rose to $5.8B USD.  However, the company's total net revenue (including wireline and revenue from other Sprint-owned brands) fell 2 percent to $8.68B USD.

Sprint reversed its net loss from ($1.6B USD) last quarter to a net profit of $383M USD this quarter. The company saw an operating loss of ($398M USD), which was down from last quarter's loss, but up from the amount Sprint lost a year ago.

II. Signs of Progress

Sprint's LTE network continues to slowly expand.  It currently covers 230 markets, and Sprint intends to cover 200 million Americans by the end of 2013 -- roughly two-thirds of Americans.

The launch of the Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPhone 5S was a major event for Sprint in Q3.  Sprint sold a modest 1.4 million iPhones (inc. the budget 5C and older models).  By contrast Verizon Wireless sold 3.9 million iPhones.  (AT&T did not disclose its iPhone sales in its earnings report.)
Sprint sold 1.4 million iPhones in Q3.

Overall, 92 percent of its postpaid branded customers chose smartphones over feature phones, showing that the smartphone has almost completed its displacement of the feature phone in the U.S.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse focused on the positive notes of the earnings report -- the 4G LTE rollout and the record platform revenue, stating, "During the third quarter Sprint platform postpaid service revenue and ARPU once again hit record levels and we continue to make great strides in our 4G LTE rollout.  We expect our network investments will bring customers greater speeds and capacity and, when combined with our unique unlimited for life offers, will improve our competitive

Sprint and Softbank
Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son (left) and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse [Image Source: Kyoto Newscom]

Look ahead, Sprint is warning of more customer defections, however, it's focusing on returning to profitability with the help of cash infusions from its parent Softbank.

Source: Sprint

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Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By aurareturn on 10/30/2013 1:36:52 PM , Rating: 5
I signed up for Sprint 1 year ago.

Here's my experience:

- If you are in a building, you will often completely miss the calls and text messages can be delayed for hours.
- Within the first week, I had to get one of those Sprint Airwaves just to get some signal in my house. I live in San Francisco, not some random town.
- 3G speed is as slow as 56k if it even works.
- 4G speed is slower than 3G on AT&T and that's if you get any signal.
- Because signal is always poor, battery gets drained much quicker.


RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By ClownPuncher on 10/30/2013 1:51:22 PM , Rating: 3
As a Sprint user, I can confirm most of this to be true in my area.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By aurareturn on 10/30/2013 2:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint has gone completely cheap on their network upgrades. As a user, I would never recommend Sprint. Go with AT&T or Verizon. You'll be a lot happier even if you have to pay a little more.

Also, unlimited on Sprint is useless if you can't get a decent connection.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By sorry dog on 10/30/2013 3:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint has gone completely cheap on their network upgrades.

In what way have they gone cheap?
Is it using older equipment for GSM?
or not keeping up with UMTS upgrades?
or not adding LTE to the BTS?
or not doing NSB where there should one?
or not engineering the antenna sectors well?

I'm not saying your wrong, but statement is very broad, so I'm interesting your rational.

Also, please keep in mind that in some areas, Sprint subscribers are going to be sharing the exact same radios as Verizon subs.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By wolrah on 10/30/2013 3:34:04 PM , Rating: 2
As someone who just left Sprint for T-Mobile a few months back, here's what I can tell you:

The wireless part of the network seems to be mostly good in my areas, but the backhaul is absolutely useless. CDMA EvDO is not that fast anyways, EvDO Rev. B maxes out at only a few megabits per second, yet exceeding T1 speeds on Sprint 3G was something that absolutely never happened so they couldn't even deliver that much.

The 4G side of things I only had experience with via WiMax (Evo 4G and Evo 3D), so I don't know how this applies to the more recent LTE deployments, but the best I ever saw was 8/1 in Pittsburgh.

They're a CDMA carrier so I'm not sure why you're going off on GSM and UMTS-related questions.

By comparison, my first 3G phone was a LG CU500 on AT&T which even back in 2006 was faster than anything I ever saw on Sprint 3G. That phone maxed out at 6mbit UMTS IIRC and it was able to use every single bit of that. A later upgrade to a Sony K850, my last featurephone, further increased speeds beyond what I usually saw on Sprint WiMax.

These days I'm on T-Mobile and while anything non-3G (roaming on ATT, weak signal, etc.) is absolutely useless (seriously, I had an original iPhone and EDGE was not this slow) the 3G is almost all DC-HSPA and at least where I live LTE is plentiful and well backed. I've never had a LTE speed test not exceed 15mbit and usually it's in the 25-40 range. 3G is usually in the high single digits and sometimes gets up to LTE type speeds, just with worse pings due to the hacked together nature of pre-4G cellular data.

By sorry dog on 10/30/2013 8:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
You/re right....I mis-spoke - it would be older EVDO based equipment for them, however keep in mind that UMTS is another kind of CDMA. I haven't been in one of their towers, but I imagine if it's like a GSM carrier then the their higher speed CDMA requires another rack/cabinet and another set of antennae.

LTE definitely requires this, and optical grade backhaul/transport. Maybe it's possible to do LTE over T1's but I haven't run into that yet. It's optical all the way to the antenna so it would sorta defeat the purpose.

I'm on TMob as well and the upgraded UMTS service is very good except in dense urban like Houston or Atlanta and it's still OK then as well. Biggest complaint there is they only allow 100mb of roaming data and you get very inconsistent data rates roaming so they need to work on their roaming agreements... I dunno if the international roaming they are advertising on TV now has any effect on this.

By Reclaimer77 on 10/30/2013 8:52:20 PM , Rating: 3
In what way have they gone cheap?

Uhh when the rest of the industry was building up their LTE, which is superior, Sprint went with WiMax - a horrible protocol - to save money.

Their service has been terrible, and they're paying the price.

Are you a paid shill? Because the OP's post is dead on mimics everyone I know who has been or is on Sprint. Including ME!

Going from Sprint to Verizon was like going from a Sopwith Camel to the SR71.

By Omega215D on 10/30/2013 2:57:15 PM , Rating: 2
As a former Sprint user their service was quite lacking in a place like NYC, especially in the outer boroughs.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By Samus on 10/31/2013 12:50:20 AM , Rating: 2
I've been pretty happy with Sprint for 2 years. LTE in Chicago is awesome and Sprint is cheaper than anybody else. I have a GS3 and my wife has a Note 2. We never have issues, even when commuting or at work.

By Dr of crap on 11/1/2013 12:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
As a Sprint user I can say just the opposite. I have no big issues with them.
Yep have a few small issues, just like all the other carriers,
but nope I'll keep my unlimited plan, thank you.

By techxx on 10/30/2013 2:20:53 PM , Rating: 2
I can also confirm this is true, and I'm in a major metropolitan city.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By Solandri on 10/30/2013 2:43:41 PM , Rating: 3
Guess my experience differs (Los Angeles area).

- I rarely miss calls, and always get texts immediately. If I call my cell phone from my landline phone, it starts ringing by the third ring on the landline.

- For years my house was a dead spot where I got just enough Sprint signal so my phone wouldn't roam, but not enough to actually make a call. From looking at the tower maps it was easy to see why - I'm in an approx 2x4 mile valley with all the nearby towers behind hills. I complained about it to Sprint for years. Two years ago they somehow fixed this. They didn't build a new tower, but must've cranked up the signal or something because I now get 3 bars. (My calls still disconnect when I drive through the lowest point in that valley though.)

- I get 500 kbps to 1.5 Mbps 3G speeds.

- I don't get 4G at home. The 4G near my workplace (Wimax) is pretty bad at around 1.5 Mbps. If I go to Orange County though, the 4G flies at 8-9 Mbps, which I believe is the limit for my phone model.

- Never had a problem with battery life unless I run a 3D app (unfortunately GPS navigation is one of these).

2-3 years ago some of my experience matched yours. I even bought an app which would force my phone to roam, so I could use Verizon's network (Sprint has roaming agreements with them, and my plan has free roaming). But I've only had to use it a handful of times this year. 2 years ago I was ready to switch, giving up my SERO plan. But now I'm willing to give it a couple more years to see how their LTE rollout goes.

The one thing that sucks is that their new Android phone prices are consistently $50 higher than on the other 3 carriers. I think they're suffering from the terrible $20 billion iPhone deal they made, and are gouging their Android customers to help pay for it.

By sorry dog on 10/30/2013 3:17:04 PM , Rating: 2
They probably adjusted the antennae for the sector that covers your house, or possibly put in new UMTS equipment and another set of antennae.
I really can't speak for other carriers, but I know AT&T has been busy putting in new Ericsson radios for UMTS bands....even in rural places where the payback is likely to take a while.

I imagine the other guys are doing the same at least in the urban markets.

By anactoraaron on 10/30/2013 4:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
The one thing that sucks is that their new Android phone prices are consistently $50 higher than on the other 3 carriers. I think they're suffering from the terrible $20 billion iPhone deal they made, and are gouging their Android customers to help pay for it.


RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By mozot on 10/30/2013 3:26:59 PM , Rating: 2
Sucks in San Diego!!!

By Jedi2155 on 10/30/2013 3:37:19 PM , Rating: 2
I was also a former Sprint user from Nov. 2010 to Nov. 2012. Left T-Mobile and now I'm back to to T-Mobile.

I traveled through the Los Angeles/Orange County areas.

+Voice service in most areas. Rarely had a no signal area.
- Data speeds were crap.
3G was typically 150-500 kbps.
4G WiMax was between 2-6 Mbps

+ Data speeds are excellent
3G HSPDA is typically 1-4 Mbps
3/4G HSPA+ is typically 4-17 Mbps
4G LTE is 8-20 Mbps
- Service had a few deadzones but generally insignificant and places that did have deadzones free WiFi was available with WiFi calling.

T-mobile is cheaper for my family of 5 as well. ($190 vs $210)

By Spookster on 10/30/2013 5:48:40 PM , Rating: 2
I think saying that their 3G speed is as slow as 56k is being generous. My only option where I live was their 3G before I switched to Verizon who does have 4G LTE here. From less than 56k Sprint to 20Mbps Verizon, well there just is no comparison.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By SAN-Man on 10/30/2013 7:58:24 PM , Rating: 2
My experience is completely different in the Bay Area.

I have Virgin Mobile (Sprint CDMA network and Wi-Max) and have zero problems making calls, connecting to 4G or sending/receiving messages in the Bay Area.

Before switching to Virgin about 3 or so years ago I was on Sprint for about a decade and never experienced those issues.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By purerice on 10/31/2013 5:09:36 AM , Rating: 2
Similar experience elsewhere in CA for me. When I lived in CA I got on an AT&T family plan. Then if you wanted an iPhone, your choice of provider was a Hobson's choice.
Later we switched to Verizon/Sprint/VM/T-Mobile (yes, very fractured). Overall, I would say Sprint/VM have the best coverage followed closely by Verizon. T-Mobile and AT&T have really, REALLY bad coverage here. I used to be able to stand about 30' from an AT&T tower and have 4 bars go to zero and drop the call. For data you might not notice but for calling it was painful.

Compared to service in Asia they all lag but I have hope for Sprint/VM with their Japanese deal. At least with iPhones as a reference they have improved. Last year VM kept the iPhone 4S at full price months after the iPhone 5 came out. This year they offer the 5S at launch for $100 off. Much smarter deal on their part.

By Solandri on 10/31/2013 12:39:05 PM , Rating: 2
I used to be able to stand about 30' from an AT&T tower and have 4 bars go to zero and drop the call. For data you might not notice but for calling it was painful.

That's a limitation of GSM. It gives every phone at a cell making a call a timeslice (20ms if I remember right) to transmit the voice call data (TDMA, or time domain multiple access). The problem is, even if there's nobody talking at that moment so the phone has no voice data to transmit, it still uses a timeslice. Once you reach a certain number of simultaneous calls, the cell is saturated and can't handle any more voice calls/begins dropping calls. Even if none of the calls actually transmitted anything that round.

CDMA (code division multiple access) handles this more gracefully. All phones are allowed to transmit simultaneously using orthogonal codes (kinda like writing two messages on a single sheet of paper by writing one normally, the other at 90 degrees). Each phone perceives the transmissions of the other phones as noise, and call degradation begins when the noise floor reaches a certain level. The advantage over GSM is that if nobody is talking in a call, the phone doesn't transmit anything, and no noise is contributed to the overall noise floor. So CDMA can squeeze in more simultaneous calls than GSM into the same bandwidth before calls start dropping.

This is a voice-only issue. GSM doesn't have this problem with data because most of the world's GSM carriers use CDMA for data (e.g. HSDPA+ is wideband CDMA). Yes, all those people criticizing the U.S. for allowing CDMA networks are probably using CDMA themselves for 3G and 3.5G data thanks to the U.S. That's why you could make calls and use data simultaneously on GSM carriers. Their phones had two radios - a TDMA one for voice, and a CDMA one for data. The Sprint and Verizon phones used a single radio for both voice and data (the CDMA stuff scales very well to higher bandwidth applications like data).

LTE works similarly to CDMA, except it uses orthogonal frequencies (OFDMA) instead of orthogonal codes. It requires more processing power to extract a single signal from the mishmash of frequencies, so if they'd implemented it 5 years ago your phone would've drained its battery in 30 minutes. Technology has finally reached the point where you can use OFDMA on an all-day battery powered device.

By bucdenny on 10/30/2013 8:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint just came out with Sprint Spark. Check it out 1Gbps over wireless trials.

RE: Not surprised. Sprint is terrible.
By euclidean on 10/31/2013 8:42:46 AM , Rating: 2
Yes - your single experience is the experience for everyone on Sprint!.... /sarcasm

Obviously, like all carriers, Sprint is crappy in some areas, great in others.

I will agree hands down that 3G is crap. However, 4G LTE is amazing.

Recently I've been traveling to Atlanta (both inside the city and in the region around it) and have had great service:
-4G LTE 95%+ of the time
-consistently hitting 15mb/4mb download/upload speeds
-0 dropped calls in the 6 weeks I've been here
-Everything seems to work

Back home in Michigan, it's not as great as we don't currently have a large concentrated 4G LTE service area. However, the area I live in (Kalamazoo!) hasn't been announced as Live for 4G LTE. But, at least 50% of the time I have it, and when I do I'm consistently hitting 20mb/5mb - nice part is, I'm able to get this at my house :-)

3G service is only horrible there with Data. Calls are pretty good with rarely getting a dropped call. I'm lucky if I ever see 1mb down on 3G.

Note: Before signing up with a carrier, you should investigate the service in your area. Yes, I could have gotten Verizon and had access to their larger 4G LTE network over the last year or 2...but the cost was pretty prohibitive. So I stuck it out, and glad I did.

T-Mobile in my area is pretty crappy. Hard to get service anywhere besides city limits...

I have AT&T through work as well, using the Lumia 920. Speeds are satisfactory, call quality is decent. I find odd areas where service drops though, more so than Sprint.

Pick your carrier based on where you spend most of your time. If you sign up for new service and it's crappy where you spend most of your time, that's your fault. All carriers give you at least 14 days, if not an entire month to return your equipment and cancel your account.

By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2013 3:12:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yes - your single experience is the experience for everyone on Sprint!.... /sarcasm

Yeah they lost 300k customers because the service was awesome. Good point...


By cknobman on 11/1/2013 10:13:11 AM , Rating: 2
Spot on post, and took the words right out of my mouth.

Current Sprint customer for the last 3 years (in TX) and will not be staying around.

This holiday season new phones will be on a different network. Only stayed this long because of a previous employer discount which is no longer there.

By philpoe on 11/1/2013 2:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a very frustrated Sprint user in Philadelphia suburbs. I have a Photon (reviewed as the best 3G/WiMax receiving phone) and a family plan of all smartphones using under 2GB data total.

Signal is lost in buildings (Sprint's high frequency bandwidth I guess).
3G Signal is moderate where I live, and nearly absent where I work, but enough to prevent roaming to Verizon, which is very strong in the area.
Data signals are simply horrendous. 4G/WiMax is typically not available, and slow when it is.

Driving on the major highways for my commute, I drop call signal 2-3 times on the way home. If I take back roads 5-6 times. Tech support implied that the towers are overwhelmed for bandwidth.

I went into downtown Philadelphia last year for an all-day event. WiMax was strong with fast speeds. It was the only time that I got the expected experience in the 2 years I've owned the Photon. If I worked in downtown Philly, I'd wonder what people are complaining about. Working in the burbs, Sprint is a disaster.

Verizon seems to blanket my usage areas with 4G LTE, and beats Sprint on performance for similar price. T-Mobile has HSPA+ and some LTE in the same areas, but costs less, especially if you bring your own devices. Sprint currently makes no sense.

By MuchLuckyMoreMoney$ on 11/5/2013 3:48:11 PM , Rating: 2
The folks at Sprint are lying dingbats. I called in, asking when my contract was up, they instead told me when I could get a new phone. Because I cancelled 'before' the end of the contract, they charged me hundreds of dollars. I protested, said I had called asking for the end of my contract and had, according to the date they gave me, cancelled my service in a timely fashion.

Guess what? They said they had 'no record' of my call. Imagine that.

I hope that T-Mobile BURIES THEM.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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