Sprint may break out 4G subscriber numbers

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CEO Dan Hesse sounded an optimistic tone on the carrier's direction, noting that Sprint is considering providing details on its mobile WiMAX subscriber numbers as the company continues to push its 4G strategy.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Kansas City Star, Hesse said he feels confident the company is turning around. The carrier expanded its prepaid offerings recently, and though it continues to struggle with postpaid subscriber losses it has made progress during the past several quarters. "We're not where we want to be yet, but there's no question we're showing progress," he said. "The strategies we focused on the last couple of years are paying off. We were in fourth place or were way behind. Now we may be third, in some areas first or second."

One of the key strategic imperatives for Sprint this year is the expansion of its 4G services and devices, which run on Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network. Sprint holds a majority stake in Clearwire. Hesse said he expects the the launch of the HTC Evo--Sprint's first 3G/4G phone--to be a "tailwind to our numbers." Sprint said the Evo broke its previous one-day sales record when it launched Friday.

Additionally, Hesse said Sprint management is discussing whether to release the carrier's 4G subscriber numbers. "There's one real good surrogate," he said. "Take a look at Clearwire. When they talk about their number of 4G subscribers, the lion's share of that is Sprint. We may or may not break out 4G, or what we call dual-mode numbers." During the first quarter Clearwire added 283,000 net new subscribers, including 172,000 retail additions and 111,000 wholesale additions.

Hesse also touched on the struggles of T-Mobile USA, the nations' No. 4 carrier. T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson announced his resignation last month, and the company reported a net loss of 77,000 subscribers in the first quarter. "Analysts will tell you that T-Mobile's performance, their trends lines, are declining while Sprint's are improving," Hesse said.

For more:
- see this Kansas City Star article

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