Sprint Corp.’s third quarter earnings report showed the company’s effort to produce rapid growth and cut costs, while awaiting approval of its proposed $26.5 billion merger with T-Mobile US Inc.
On Thursday January 31th, the Overland Park-based wireless carrier reported its second consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in wireless service revenue and its sixth consecutive quarter of postpaid net additions. The company also reported its 12th consecutive quarter of operating income.
Sprint reported 309,000 postpaid net additions in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, an improvement of 53,000 compared to the previous year, as the carrier focused on growing revenue per customer with wearables and other services.
“Sprint’s strategy of balancing growth and profitability while we work toward regulatory approval of our T-Mobile merger is reflected in our fiscal third-quarter results,” Sprint CEO Michel Combes said in a press release. “We delivered solid financials, increased network investments as we prepare for our mobile 5G launch, and continued the digital transformation of the company.”
For the full fiscal year, the company expects to cut costs by more than $1 billion for the fifth consecutive year, with net reductions of less than $500 million after reinvestments. Sprint more than doubled its quarterly network investments, or cash capital expenditures excluding leased devices, to $1.4 billion, and increased by approximately $150 million compared to the previous quarter as the company moved toward launching its 5G service. The company reports it now has 2.5 GHz spectrum deployed on approximately 75 percent of its macro sites, and has 27,000 small cells deployed — both key factors in deploying 5G service.
Sprint reported a net loss of $141 million in the quarter compared to a net income of $7.2 billion in the year-ago period.
Highlights of Sprint’s Earnings Call:
Sprint CEO Michel Combes:
Atlanta is one of our Massive MIMO markets preparing for 5G launch in the coming months. That means fans in town for the Superbowl will see exceptional network performance in the highest traffic locations, whether they are inside or outside the stadium, to a nearby museum or hotel, or traveling around the city to one of the many special events planned this weekend.
We’re also preparing to launch our mobile 5G network in the first half of 2019. Our Massive MIMO radio are software upgradable to 5G NR as you know, allowing us to fully utilize our spectrum for both LTE and 5G simultaneously while we enhance capacity even further with 5G and begin to support new 5G use cases.
We celebrated an important milestone earlier this month on our path towards launching mobile 5G service in the first half of this year, when we completed the world’s first over-the-air 5G data transition using 2.5 and Massive MIMO on Sprint’s live commercial network.
We’ve also announced three 5G devices including smartphones from both LG and Samsung as well as a feature-rich mobile hotspot from HTC. The other carriers are not standing still, but our significant work investments, spectrum resources and cutting-edge technologies will help us continue to improve our network and we expect to deliver robust 5G experience in major metro areas.
Nevertheless, we’re hopeful to complete our merger with T-Mobile which is the only path to deliverings of breadth and depth of spectrum which will allow us to provide a truly consistent national-wide 5G experience to Americans.
As a stand-alone company, we love to scale to keep pace with the bigger carriers, AT&T and Verizon, in sustained capital investments and without additional low-band spectrum we will face challenges to provide customers with coverage comparable to that of the big two carriers.
Sprint CTO John Saw:
We expect to be substantially done with adding 2.5 GHz to where we needed it in another quarter, towards spring this year. And like we have said, we have made significant progress. A year ago, we were only at 50% of our sites having 2.5 GHz.
Small cells, again, a lot of momentum recently, 27,000 small cells. A year ago, we only had 3,000. So the permits are starting to come in. Some of our infrastructure that we are leveraging, especially with the cable companies, is making it easier for us to deploy small cells faster.
LTE Advanced has rolled out in more than 270 cities, and this is why we’re starting to make an impression even in the big markets where our customer experience speeds have improved significantly because of LTE Advanced.
We expect the LTE Advanced upgrades to complete around spring this year as well. Small cells will continue to be a focus for us because we need to continue to densify our networks even with 5G. A network is never done, Brett, so we are also rapidly transitioning to focusing on 5G as well. As you know, a lot of our radios that we’re deploying today with Massive MIMO allows us to simultaneously support LTE and 5G, and that is going to be the main focus for the rest of this year for 5G.
Closing remarks by Michel Combes:
We are aggressively executing our Next-Gen Network deployment to deliver a network build for unlimited with building the foundation for our mobile 5G network that will launch commercially in the coming months. We continue to enhance our value proposition and continue to transform our cost structure and customer experience with digital, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and automation.