Sprint's network vision has morphed into what the carrier is now calling "Sprint Next-Generation Network," a massive densification project involving a combination of macro site and small cells.
Speaking on the carrier's fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure described Next-Generation Network as Sprint's long-term strategy to "truly unload the value of its spectrum." The carrier is currently in the "absolute final stage" of choosing its vendors, figuring out the right combination of macro sites and small cell sites and deciding where to start deployments, Claure said. (See Report: Sprint to Add 9,000 New Sites for LTE.)
"When you massively densify any network, the result that you get when you have so much spectrum is spectacular," Claure said. He described it as a longer-term strategy for Sprint, but said the carrier has started in some places where its network is now better than AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s LTE network. (See Verizon Still Best Network, RootMetrics Finds.)
Claure didn't delve into a budget for Next-Generation Network or how it's different from Network Vision, Spark or any previous network improvement plan from the carrier, but he did say that SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son is fully on board with this densification plan. (See SoftBank Man Joins Sprint as Technical COO and Sprint Sparks to Reduce Churn, Save Unlimited.)
Sprint is also eager to participate in the 600MHz auction, which he called a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire low-band spectrum," but Claure said that Sprint has to make sure the rules are fair to smaller carriers. (See T-Mobile Boss Asks Consumers to Pressure FCC on Low-Band.)
Sprint's LTE coverage now reaches nearly 280 million people, or 87% of the US population. This quarter it focused on building out LTE on its 800MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum. (See Sprint Versus T-Mobile: Which Metrics Matter?)
Sprint's fourth-quarter earnings, reported this morning, were a mixed bag. While it managed to fend off T-Mobile US Inc. for its third-place ranking by adding 1.2 million -- mostly prepaid and tablet -- additions, it still lost 201,000 postpaid phone customers. This was less than AT&T, which lost 291,000 postpaid customers, but more than Verizon Wireless 's 138,000. Only T-Mobile managed to add postpaid phone customers in its previous quarter, reporting additions of 991,000. (See T-Mobile Beats Sprint on Subs, Eyes Verizon on Network, AT&T CFO Shrugs Off Google Fi as Limited and Verizon Focuses on Cashing In on LTE.)
Claure said the biggest disappointment of the quarter was Sprint's postpaid churn at 1.84%, down from 2.3% the previous quarter. Although it was its best sequential churn improvement in a long time, he said Sprint must reduce it further by "fundamentally transforming the customer experience." (See Sprint Feels the Churn Burn Before Spark.)
Sprint lost $224 million, or 6 cents per share, on revenue of $8.3 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter. That is up from a loss of $151 million, or 4 cents per share, on revenue of $8.9 billion a year ago. (See Sprint Loses $224M in Q4.)
Sprint was trading up slightly, .78%, or .04 points, to $5.19 Tuesday after its earnings call, even though its fourth-quarter earnings missed analyst estimates of a loss of 4 cents per share.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading