Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) is giving investors a good old one-two punch of favorable news this week.
The first came in the form of the coveted Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone 4S, marking the first time the smartphone has been sanctioned on Sprint's network, even though it won't be exclusive.
Today, Sprint provided a strategic update on its plans to build out a 4G LTE network. The carrier will be partnering with LightSquared, which is still pending FCC approval because of potential conflicts with GPS signals, to implement the next-generation network. Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) might be asked to leave the party early, as Sprint aims to move away from its existing WiMAX networks in favor of LTE, in part because of faster speeds.
Sprint did indicate that it remains committed to WiMAX for the time being and will continue selling supported devices through 2012, but the technology's prospects continue to look dimmer and dimmer. Larger rivals AT&T (NYSE: T ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) have already opted for LTE and begun rolling out their own networks.
Starting in mid-2012, Sprint will begin rapid deployments and LTE-capable device sales. The plan has been accelerated from the initial three- to five-year time frame Sprint had initially planned, and the rollout is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. The company is also working closely with Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) to see that devices are available in time for launch.
This has been an important week for Sprint. The addition of the iPhone to its lineup and promises of ramping up its 4G LTE network posthaste could be just what the company needs to halt its hemorrhaging of crucial postpaid subscribers. Last quarter, the company lost roughly 101,000 net postpaid subscribers, which was actually greatly improved from the previous year. In contrast, AT&T added roughly 331,000 net postpaid subscribers during the same quarter.
Sprint still has its work cut out for it, but this week's events are two steps in the right direction.
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