Was The iPhone a Smart Move for Sprint?

As the most recent major U.S. carrier to get the iPhone on its network, one would expect the globe’s most popular smartphone to instantly make a splash – and some big bucks – for the third largest mobile operator in the United States.

But given the huge subsidy Apple charges its carrier partners for access to the device, it can take some time for the iPhone to bring in the green.

A long time.

In fact, just this week, All Things D published comments from Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who says it could take another three years for the iPhone to become profitable for his company.

Sprint, which reportedly committed $15.5 billion over time for the ability to sell the iPhone, won’t see a return on that investment until somewhere in the neighborhood of 2015.

“We’re very happy with it,” Hesse said of Sprint’s deal with Apple, during the company’s annual shareholders meeting Tuesday. “Carrying the iPhone will be quite profitable.”

“Over time we will make more money on iPhone customers than we will on other customers,” Hesse asserts.

Sprint’s shareholders hope he’s right.