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Sprint sells 2.2 million iPhones, loses $1.32 billion in Q4 2012

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Sprint store (STOCK)
Sprint store (STOCK)

Third-place wireless carrier Sprint has just released its financial report for Q4 2012. Compared to Q3's net loss of $767 million, the carrier slumped further to a $1.32 billion loss. The carrier attributes some of the loss ($400 million) to its Network Vision buildout and the shut down of its legacy Nextel network, as well as $45 million lost to the effects of Hurricane Sandy in the New York Metro area. In relation to AT&T and Verizon, both of which had banner quarters for smartphone, and more specifically, iPhone sales, Sprint sold 2.2 million iPhones — its highest quarterly iPhone sales figure ever — and 6.1 million total smartphones. It says 89 percent of new postpaid customers opted for smartphones over simpler devices. During an conference call for investors, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse claimed that Sprint was the "top seller for the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone" during the fourth quarter.

America's third-largest carrier added 401,000 postpaid customers over the quarter, but lost 644,000 from its Nextel network. Over 2012 as a whole, Sprint added a total of 1.5 million postpaid subscribers, and when offset against losses from the Nextel network, added a total of 605,000 new customers over its entire network — that includes postpaid, prepaid, and wholesale. The Nextel network is set to close down by the end of the second quarter, and Sprint has failed to convince a large number of Nextel subscribers — 45 percent of some 2.65 million — to switch to its own network.

As far as Sprint's LTE rollout is concerned, the carrier noted that it now has LTE live in 58 cities across the country, and it plans to add 170 more cities to its coverage map in the coming months. Hesse did note during the investor call that Sprint is behind its two biggest competitors for LTE (AT&T and Verizon), but it expects to rapidly catch up over the course of the next year.

The fourth quarter of 2012 is the first full quarter to close since Sprint's acquisition by Japanese carrier SoftBank was announced, but since that deal hasn't closed, it has yet to dramatically affect Sprint's business. Sprint says the deal is still tracking to close by the middle of this year, so we should see the effects of SoftBank's interest in the not too distant future.

Aaron Souppouris contributed to this report