Sprint loses $1.62b and 1.3m subs in Q4

The nightmare continues for Sprint Nextel, which reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.62 billion compared with a year-earlier net loss of $29.45 billion.

Another 1.3 million subscribers left the operator, reducing its overall subscriber count to 49.3 million.

Sprint has now lost more than 5 million postpaid customers over the past five quarters; by contrast, AT&T signed on 2.1 million new subscribers in Q4, while Verizon Wireless added 1.2 million.

Sprint reported a wireless churn rate of 2.16%, up slightly over a third quarter rate of 2.15% but an improvement over the 2.29% posted in the year-ago period.

The carrier also said almost 10% of post-paid customers upgraded their handsets during the Q4 holiday season, resulting in increased contract renewals and the prospect of improved data revenues as subscribers upgrade to smartphones.

Sprint's wireless service revenues declined 13% year-over-year to $6.6 billion - wireless postpaid ARPU in the quarter remained stable sequentially at $56, with data growth helping offset voice declines.

Data revenues contributed more than $14.50 to overall post-paid ARPU in Q4, galvanized by growth in CDMA data ARPU, which increased about 9% quarter-over-quarter to more than $17.75. According to Sprint, data now represents almost 31% of total CDMA ARPU, buoyed by strong take rates on bundled data services and continued growth in data cards.

Sprint last month announced it will eliminate about 8,000 jobs in an effort to reduce labor costs by approximately $1.2 billion. The cuts are expected to be completed by March 31 and will be carried out at all levels within the organization.

Sprint adds it has seen a recent reduction in customer care calls per subscriber and an overall increase in consumer satisfaction resulting from customer service improvements, and accordingly the majority of the headcount reductions will focus on non-customer facing divisions. Sprint noted that job reduction total includes roughly 850 positions expected to be cut under a voluntary separation plan initiated late last year.

For more on Sprint's Q4 results: release