Sprint went ahead and shut down its mobile WiMAX network on Friday except in the markets around the country where it was ordered by a judge in Massachusetts to keep it running for two nonprofit groups that are locked in a contract dispute with the carrier. Meanwhile, Sprint disclosed it will incur as much as $225 million in costs related to the shutdown of Clearwire's legacy WiMAX network.
As has been the case for much of 2015, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US led the way in terms of capital expenditures for wireless network gear in the third quarter, with AT&T Mobility and Sprint appearing to be hanging back in terms of major capex spending. However, Sprint is just beginning its network densification efforts and some tower companies do expect AT&T to begin ramping up spending next year.
Sprint is hoping to gain market share as the holiday shopping season approaches via a new promotion that gives new and existing customers Amazon Prime memberships if they purchase certain Samsung Electronics smartphones.
Tucows CEO Elliot Noss said that the company's Ting Mobile MVNO added fewer net new customers in the third quarter than it did a year ago but that the period represented Ting's best ever in terms of gross additions. Ting's service runs on Sprint's network and also has supported GSM service since March, likely via T-Mobile US' network. As a unit of a publicly traded company, Ting is one of the few MVNOs that breaks out its subscriber and financial metrics.
SBA Communications provided guidance for 2016 that was lower than investors were expecting, though financial analysts said it was conservative. The analysts think that SBA's guidance indicates that AT&T Mobility will step up its U.S. wireless network spending in 2016, but it's unclear by how much, and that there is not a lot of visibility on how Sprint's network densification will proceed.
A state judge in Massachusetts delayed Sprint's plans to shut down Clearwire's legacy mobile WiMAX network in 75 cities across the country by 90 days. In doing so, the judge sided with two nonprofits that had sued the carrier, alleging that Sprint violated their contract by pushing them to accept LTE service that would have throttled their customers' speeds after 6 GB of data usage.
Soon AT&T Mobility customers will be able to receive a call on their Apple Watch even if they don't have their iPhone nearby. The carrier is trialing its "NumberSync" technology in the latest beta version of iOS. The technology lets customers share their primary phone number with other connected devices even if their phone isn't connected to a cellular network.
Sprint plans to shutter tomorrow the mobile WiMAX network it inherited when it bought Clearwire in 2013, and the carrier said only a small percentage of customers remain on the WiMAX network after a long campaign by Sprint to get customers to switch to its LTE network.
The shift to handset leasing and smartphone upgrade plans is dramatically altering the financial models of wireless operators and significantly lengthening the lifespan of the smartphone. It's also creating some confusion in the industry. During every third-quarter earnings call, analysts have peppered wireless executives with questions about their equipment installment plans (EIP) and, in the case of Sprint and Apple, their device leasing programs.
Financial analysts are divided over Sprint's prospects as it looks to build on its first quarter of positive postpaid phone customer additions in years and ahead of the launch of leasing companies to help it buy handsets and network gear. Some think Sprint has started to create a strong foundation for its turnaround while others are more cautious and have questions about the company's long-term fortunes.