In reporting its second-quarter results three months ago, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) CEO Dan Hesse made it clear that the company had not yet turned the corner in its turnaround attempt. And from the results and comments given with this quarter's numbers, that statement still holds true today.

Sprint reported revenue of $8.8 billion in the third quarter, a 12% decline from last year. The bottom line bled out $326 million as the company continued to see its wireless customers defect to alternatives from competing carriers like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).

The recent trend in subscriber losses doesn't paint a pretty picture:


Net Subscriber Loss*

1Q 2008


2Q 2008


3Q 2008


*In thousands. Source: Sprint Nextel.

But Sprint Nextel noted last quarter that the poor performance of its wireless business was expected, as this quarter is typically a seasonally weak period. The company also noted that it is rededicating itself to the Nextel brand, which it had reportedly been looking to offload earlier this year.

Even with the ongoing struggles, the company reached many important milestones in the quarter. Sprint Nextel launched its first commercial broadband network based on WiMax in Baltimore. The company has also shored up its balance sheet by retiring around $1 billion in debt principal and renegotiating its revolving credit facility. And the FCC has given its approval of the Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) transaction. This is a positive development for the WiMax joint venture that Sprint and partners such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Motorola (NYSE:MOT) have pumped billions into.

In the next quarter, Sprint Nextel noted that it expects most performance trends to remain the same, including "continued pressure on post-paid subscribers." While the company continues to point toward internal and external quality metrics to demonstrate its improvement in customer service, it's still tough to see a convincing reflection of this in the financials.

Trading at less than $3 per share, Sprint Nextel is an attractive value play, but investors need a good helping of patience to see this company slowly regain its lost ground, especially with a contracting economy that will put pressure on the whole sector.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock likes lots of things when they're half-baked. Sprint Nextel and Intel are Inside Value recommendations. Motley Fool owns a few shares of Intel. Google is a Rule Breakers pick. The Fool's disclosure policy reads lips, so don't even think about it.

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