Sprint Adds Apps, Slows Subscriber Bleeding

This morning US operator Sprint announced quarterly earnings and full year 2009 results. Here are some highlights:

The company served 48.1 million customers at the end of the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to 48.3 million at the end of the third quarter of 2009. This includes 34.0 million post-paid subscribers (26.0 million on CDMA, 7.3 million on iDEN, and 725,000 Power Source users who utilize both networks), 10.7 million prepaid subscribers (5.7 million on iDEN and 5.0 million on CDMA) and almost 3.5 million wholesale and affiliate subscribers, all of whom utilize our CDMA network. 

Sprint reported a loss but lost fewer customers than from Q2 to Q3 last year, when it saw its subscriber rolls decline by 500,000. Better handsets and aggressive pricing helped staunch the bleeding. 

The company also announced a partnership with GetJar that will provide access to the GetJar's 60,000 apps, for Sprint feature phone and RIM customers:

Through this agreement, GetJar's catalog of more than 60,000 free applications will now be available to all Sprint customers with feature phones such as the LG Lotus EliteTM, Samsung ReclaimTM and the Sanyo 2700. In addition, Sprint customers with RIM BlackBerry(R) and Windows Mobile devices also will have access to the GetJar library of applications. 

Apparently Sprint is also considering launching new brands in the pre-paid segment, where it already has three brands but also showing greater strength than in post-paid relative to the competition. According to DowJones newswires:

Sprint plans to target Boost Mobile--the principal driver of its prepaid growth over the past year--to heavy callers. For those looking for more features or data services, there is Virgin Mobile USA, which the company acquired in December. Last month, Sprint launched Assurance Wireless, which targets low-income households that receive government assistance.

Hesse hinted at launching one or two more brands in the second half of the year, noting there was still demand from the pay-as-you-go and heavy-user segments.

"What you're going to see from us on the prepaid side is the creation of brands with a very unique value proposition that appeals to specific segments of the market," said Dan Schulman, the former CEO of Virgin Mobile USA who runs the prepaid business for Sprint.

Each pre-paid brand would be targeted to a different demographic or user segment as the quote above suggests. Sprint's 48.1 million customers compare to 91.2 for Verizon and 85.1 million for AT&T.