With or without AT&T/T-Mobile merger, analyst says Sprint already lost

Lead by chief executive Dan Hesse, Sprint has likely been the most vocal opponent of AT&T’s proposed $39 billion T-Mobile USA acquisition. The Department of Justice announced last week that it was filing a lawsuit in an attempt to block the deal, and while AT&T was none too happy with the newsSprint predictably responded by applauding the DOJ’s decision to fight the merger. But even if the merger is blocked, Sprint has arguably already lost to AT&T and Verizon Wireless according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King. “It essentially maintains the status quo, which, given the results of Sprint over the last couple of years, is not the best place to be,” King told The New York Times. Read on for more.

As Sprint continues to shed subscribers at an alarming rate — the nation’s No. 3 carrier lost 101,000 postpaid subscribers last quarter — analysts are rightfully beginning to wonder how Sprint’s situation will improve if AT&T and T-Mobile do not merge. With the amount of time and resources Sprint is putting into fighting the acquisition, this is certainly a valid question. The addition of Apple’s iPhone 5 is expected by some to bolster Sprint’s business when it launches next month, but each of the four major wireless carriers in the U.S. will carry the handset beginning next month according to reports. As such, the addition of the iPhone 5 could do more to increase smartphone sales among Sprint’s current subscriber base — and put more stress on the carrier’s network thanks to its unlimited data plans — than it will to attract new business.

Sprint’s 4G plans also weigh heavily on investors’ minds right now. Sprint announced plans to adopt 4G LTE in addition to its WiMAX services in a deal with LightSquared worth $13.5 billion for the carrier over the next 15 years. LightSquared is having issues with its LTE build-out however, as its spectrum is found to interfere with frequencies used by GPS services. Sprint’s WiMAX partner Clearwire is also planning to adopt LTE, but only if it can find the cash. Sprint is expected to discuss its 4G strategy next month during a press event on October 7th, where BGR will be reporting live.

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