On Thursday, Sprint Nextel Corp posted higher than expected fourth-quarter revenue of $9 billion while also having to admit that its subscriber numbers fell short of expectations.
Sprint, however, did managed to sell its best-ever 2.2 million iPhones over holiday quarter, 38% of which went to new customers.
“It added 401,000 Sprint customers in the quarter, including 333,000 that moved from Nextel, but analysts were disappointed it depended so heavily on Nextel customers,” observed Sinead Carew of Reuters.
Sprint, which wants to sell 70 percent of itself to Japan’s SoftBank Corp, remains the nation’s third largest carrier behind Verizon and AT&T. But until subscriber numbers pick up more significantly, third place is the best Sprint will be able to do.
AT&T, for example, added 780,000 subscribers in the same quarter, while Verizon added 2.1 million net subscribers.
Hudson Square Research analyst Todd Rethemeier was among the Wall Street watchers who expected Sprint to add at least 600,000 new customers in the quarter – a number that Sprint missed by 200,000.