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Sprint once again strong on prepaid adds

Since 2007 the Sprint quarterly report has been something of an event in the mobile media world. They’ve lost millions of customers in that span, and many of us are interested to see just how many they’ll lose this time. Yet we’ve seen signs of a turnaround from Sprint, and in the first quarter we saw that in the numbers. They lost 75,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2010, which represents progress for them. That actually included postpaid losses of 578,000, though 447,000 of those were on iDEN. But we’re concerned about prepaid, which did quite well. Sprint added 348,000 net prepaid subscribers, which helped keep it afloat.

It appears that the addition of Virgin Mobile and the new Boost Mobile CDMA plans helped a lot. Boost actually gained a net 392,000 CDMA prepaid subscribers, but lost 44,000 on the iDEN side. Add that to 155,000 net wholesale gains, and that’s a pretty tidy prepaid quarter. Sprint also reduced prepaid churn to 5.74 percent, from 6.86 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Sprint ended the quarter with 11 million prepaid subscribers, divided almost evenly between CDMA and iDEN. Boost’s iDEN still has 5.7 million subscribers, while Boost and Virgin have 5.3 million on CDMA. We will see those totals tip towards CDMA by the end of the year, I imagine. Sprint also has 3.6 million wholesale subscribers, though they’re not all necessarily prepaid. Still, these are positive numbers for Sprint.

The AP has a Q&A with CEO Dan Hesse, and the question involved prepaid. He seems pretty optimistic about his pay-as-you-go division.

I think we’re really going to start to pick up prepaid momentum in the second half of the year … Prepaid in terms of its percentage of the overall wireless industry is going to grow, so our turnaround is really focused on prepaid becoming a more and more important part of the company and doing better in that market.

We typically see the industry slow down in the second and third quarter, so I suspect the gains of which Hesse speaks are projected more for the fourth quarter.