Something is very wrong in Overland Park, KS, the Kansas City suburb where Sprint’s corporate headquarters reside. The number of subscribers lost, while down from previous quarters, was still significant in the fourth quarter of 2009, and it just doesn’t seem like the carrier can do anything to save itself. Will 4G connectivity be the solution? Sprint sure seems to be hoping so.
Since around the third quarter of 2008, customers have been leaving Sprint in droves to the point that it even crowed about loss slowing in the last quarter of 2009 in a press release:
Net post-paid subscriber losses improved by more than 40 percent in the second half of 2009, as compared to the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009. For the fourth quarter, net post-paid subscriber losses improved by almost 300,000 sequentially, and by more than 600,000 year-over-year.
Translation to English: “Yeah, we still lost customers this quarter, but not as many!” They lost 504,000 contract subscribers, but picked up 435,000 pre-paid customers resulting in a net loss of 148,000 subscribers.
All of this is in spite of the fact that the company’s once lack-luster customer service now wins awards, and according to a recent study by BillShrink, it offers the overall lowest contract rates.
So what will save the smallest — and getting smaller — of the four major cellular carriers in the United States? Apparently the company’s growing relationship with Clearwire, the main company behind the 4G technology WiMax, is the thing it hopes will save it.
Sprint is already touting its first 4G phone to be released this summer, and it has already released a mobile hot spot device called the Overdrive that works on the network. Sprint is also planning to work with other equipment manufacturers about including the technology so that there will be more people wanting to come to them for connectivity.
In a recent earnings call, Chief Executive Dan Hesse called 2010 “the year of 4G,” so it’s pretty clear what basket is putting its eggs into, but will it be enough? Will the lure of faster mobile connectivity really be enough to not only keep the company from hemorrhaging subscribers, but to also keep them from losing even more? A recent report from Research and Markets, reported by Daily Wireless, predicts that by 2014 Sprint’s market share will be down to 7.4 percent, even with 4G factored in. Apparently there are those out there that think even speed can’t lure customers to stick around.
Sprint put a lot of hopes into the Palm Pre, and seeing how Palm is apparently in a lot of trouble also, it’s like two drowning men trying to hold one another up for just a bit longer. The carrier lacks a “must have” device at this time, and with its ever decreasing market share, it seems unlikely any device manufacturer is going to want to give them one any time soon.
What say you? Could 4G speeds lure you over to Sprint?