Sprint expands 4G LTE network to curb mobile churn

Telecom Lead America: Sprint is expanding its 4G LTE network.

The new markets — where 4G coverage will be available — include: Altoona, Pa., Asheville, N.C., Columbus, Ind., Elkhart/Goshen, Ind., Hammond, La., La Crosse, Wis., San Juan, Puerto Rico, Statesville, N.C., and Temple, Texas.

Through its Network Vision program, Sprint’s 4G LTE service also expanded in San Germán, Yauco, Salinas and Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico.

The expansion is a significant step for Sprint that added 401,000 Sprint customers in the fourth quarter, including 333,000 that moved from Nextel.

Reuters reported that Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse was unhappy with the 1.98 percent churn rate in the fourth quarter, a measure of customer defections. It was higher than the third-quarter rate.

Hesse blamed the increase on a massive network upgrade project that caused some customers to turn away, including an entire company that hung up on Sprint services at the same time Sprint was moving its users from the Nextel network.

Sprint posted a net loss of 243,000 subscribers in Q4. By comparison, bigger rival AT&T added 780,000 subscribers in the quarter and market leader Verizon Wireless added 2.1 million net subscribers.

Bob Azzi, senior vice president-Network, Sprint, said: “The network team continues to build and test the new network across the country, including areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Customers report they are already finding a 4G LTE signal in these places, and we look forward to providing even more reliable access to the data they need with our official launches.”

All Sprint 3G customers, including the company’s prepaid customers on Assurance Wireless, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA can expect to see better coverage and improved network reliability and voice quality once the improvements come to their areas.

The No. 3 U.S. mobile service provider introduced its 4G LTE network in July 2012 and now offers service in 67 markets.

Recently, AP reported that Sprint Network chief Steve Elfman said the upgrade of the company’s cell towers is on schedule despite the ravages of Superstorm Sandy.

The company has lit up LTE antennas, which provide higher data speeds, in 58 cities and plans to light up another 170 in coming months. Verizon Wireless and AT&T got started on LTE earlier and have bigger networks up and running.

In Q4 2012, Sprint posted a quarterly loss of $1.32 billion compared with a loss of $1.30 billion in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose to $9.01 billion from $8.72 billion.

Arvind Krishna
[email protected]