Sprint Updates Customer Count, But Keeps Final Tally Secret

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Kansas City Star/TNS) -

Sprint Corp. updated some of its subscriber numbers Thursday, following a Wednesday presentation by CEO Marcelo Claure.

The incomplete report seems to show that Sprint will hang on to its ranking as the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, just ahead of T-Mobile US Inc., for now.

Claure’s message, delivered at an investor conference in Las Vegas, was that his aggressive pricing deals are working. Sprint’s cut-your-bill-in-half deal is luring customers away from industry giants AT&T and Verizon.

At one point Wednesday, Claure said the company’s gains in the last three months of 2014 were just short of 1 million subscribers. The official tally in Thursday’s announcement was 967,000 net new subscribers on the Sprint network.

Sprint and Claure, however, each stopped short of updating the company’s 55.037 million subscriber count as of the end of September. That number evidently went up, but how much remains a secret until Sprint reports all of its results in February.

What’s missing from Thursday’s update is how many customers Sprint lost from the cache of subscribers it gained when it bought Clearwire Corp. Clearwire built and ran the WiMax network the two companies shared.

Clearwire customers who have switched from the WiMax network to the Sprint network stay in Sprint’s customer counts. Those who dropped WiMax and went elsewhere come out of the customer count, and it’s that number that’s missing in the update.

In the company’s September report, Sprint had said it lost 106,000 Clearwire subscribers, which left it with the 55.037 million total. Assuming the fourth-quarter total was in the same range, Sprint’s February update should show an increase in total subscribers.

Sprint would keep its standing as the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier with close to 56 million subscribers at the end of December. T-Mobile US said Wednesday that it ended December with 55.018 million subscribers.

Claure didn’t talk about how close the two companies’ customer totals have become. The gap has closed in the last two years as T-Mobile’s count jumped from 42.3 million at the start of 2013.

But Claure emphasized that Sprint will doggedly pursue adding customers by extending its promotion aimed at Verizon and AT&T customers and by opening more retail locations this year.