We wonder why the state attorneys general and regulators are so worried about T-Mobile snapping up Sprint. Sure, they say that with a 25% drop in the number of major U.S. carriers, consumers will end up paying more for wireless service. But if Sprint continues to spill red ink, and with the amount of debt the company carries, Sprint is either going to disappear or raise its prices anyway.
This morning, the company announced its fiscal third-quarter results
. The period ran from October through December 2019 and during those three months the nation's fourth-largest carrier reported a net loss of $120 million or 3 cents per share. That compares to the net loss of $145 million or 3 cents per share that Sprint reported for its 2018 fiscal third quarter. Revenue declined from $5.7 billion during the fiscal third quarter of 2018 to $5.4 billion in the 2019 quarter. During the same time period, equipment sales dropped from $1.59 billion to $1.37 billion while rentals also declined from $1.31 billion to $1.29 billion.
In the most important category, postpaid phone subscribers, Sprint lost 115,000 subscribers in the fiscal third-quarter of 2019
During the quarter, Sprint saw the number of postpaid phone subscribers decline by 115,000, a greater than four-fold increase from the 26,000 postpaid phone customers that Sprint lost during the same quarter in 2018. Postpaid phone churn rose 22 basis points from 1.84% to 2.06% on an annual basis. Sprint had 26.24 million postpaid phone subscribers at the end of the quarter. Net additions of total postpaid subscribers in the quarter rose 60% to 494,000 from the 309,000 net additions reported during the 2018 fiscal third quarter. The number of prepaid subscribers declined by 174,000 in the period compared to the 173,000 lost during the same three month period the previous year. At the end of December, the carrier had 8.27 million prepaid customers for a 6.6% decline from the 8.85 million it had at the end of 2018's fiscal third quarter. Prepaid churn rose from 4.83% to 4.92% year-over-year. At the end of the period, Sprint had a total of 54.2 million subscribers compared to the 54.5 million it had after the 2018 quarter.
Sprint reported a net loss of $120 million during its fiscal third-quarter
Sprint did have some positives to report during the period. The number of postpaid accounts (11.3 million at quarter's end) grew year-over-year and sequentially for the third consecutive quarter. And the company's True Mobile 5G service now covers 20 million Americans in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. In those markets, Sprint's 5G service is delivering download data speeds averaging 215Mbps which is five times faster than the carrier's average LTE download data speed.
Building out its 5G network, Sprint has been employing its mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum (and the object of T-Mobile's desires) on its Macro sites which include large towers and antennas. It also is deploying thousands of Massive MIMO sites; the technology offers a larger number of connections between transmitters and receivers. This not only adds capacity to Sprint's LTE and 5G network, it also allows spectrum to be used simultaneously for 4G LTE and 5G signals.
Ookla's Speedtest Intelligence data had Sprint owning the second-fastest wireless network during the fourth calendar quarter of 2019. With a 45 percent year-over-year increase in its national average download speeds, Ookla named Sprint calendar 2019's most improved wireless operator. Commenting on the earnings report, Sprint CEO Michel Combes said, "I continue to be impressed by the commitment of Sprint employees to deliver results during this period of uncertainty. As we await a decision in the state attorneys general lawsuit, I continue to believe the merger with T-Mobile is the best way to deliver the benefits of competition to American consumers."
Sprint's shares declined on the news by 15 cents or 3.11% to $4.68 a share.