Sprint Corp. is reversing its customer losses with the cut-your-bill-in-half promotion aimed at stealing subscribers from rivals Verizon and AT&T, its chief executive said Wednesday.
Marcelo Claure, speaking at an investor conference in Las Vegas, said the promotion helped Sprint rob its rivals of more customers than they took from Sprint during the last three months of 2014.
“Long gone are the days where everybody lived by taking our customers away,” he said. “That trend is over. We’re going to continue to work hard to make sure we are the one taking customers away from others.”
During those three months, Sprint gained more customers than it lost, though Claure didn’t provide details.
His comments came the same day rival T-Mobile US Inc. said it added 8.3 million customers in 2014 — enough to match the 55 million subscribers that Sprint reported it had at the end of September.
At stake is Sprint’s longtime standing as the country’s third-largest wireless company, behind giants Verizon and AT&T, which each claim more than 100 million wireless subscribers.
T-Mobile chief executive John Legere had said last summer that his company would finish 2014 with more subscribers than Sprint, an event he now says may not happen until later this year.
Sprint will update its subscriber totals in February.
At the Las Vegas event, Claure said Sprint will extend its cut-your-bill-in-half promotion, which excludes T-Mobile customers, into the New Year. It also will open more Sprint stores and increase its work with other retailers to expand the number of places cellphone users can become Sprint customers.
Sprint will remain an “aggressive sales and marketing machine,” Claure said.
Claure said the benefits of the promotion go beyond the numbers of subscribers it has attracted. The customers coming from Verizon and AT&T include a lot of high-quality customers, he said, that likely will stay with Sprint for 60 months.
Claure disputed claims heard during the conference that Sprint had slowed dramatically the upgrade of its wireless network, which persistently ranks slowest among the four largest carriers.
Chicago now has all of Sprint’s wireless network technology in place, he said, and is second only to Verizon’s network in tests by RootMetrics. Crews will be doing the same upgrades in up to 43 other markets, though it will take time.
“We’re grabbing the Chicago model and taking it other places,” he said.
Addressing Sprint’s finances, Claure said his plan to cut $1.5 billion in expenses was on schedule and included $400 million in savings from the job cutbacks. Sprint had eliminated 1,700 jobs largely in October and announced plans to cut 2,000 more jobs.
He also said the company would start to operate with a smaller cash reserve than it has. Currently, it holds more than $5 billion in its cash accounts, even when it owes $30 billion in debt, but Claure wants that reduced to no more than $1 billion in cash on hand.
“We’re going to run this business a lot tighter,” he said.
Separately, Sprint said Wednesday three companies that supply it with network equipment provided $1.8 billion in loans to pay for purchases. It also gained $300 million in additional financing through Export Development Canada.