Sprint’s iPhone 4s Not Enough

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet’s guest contributor program, which is separate from the company’s news coverage.

NEW YORK (Trefis) -
Sprint‘s(S) stock has been volatile in the past few weeks.

The company has announced plans to raise additional capital for its 4G LTE network launch next year as well as to provide unlimited data plans for iPhone subscribers.

While building out its own LTE network infrastructure will bring down Sprint’s long-term costs and help it compete better against ATT(T) and Verizon(VZ), it’s piling up a lot of debt. Moody’s responded to the rising debt by downgrading its credit rating.

Meanwhile Apple‘s(AAPL) iPhone 4S is selling like hotcakes, registering 4 million sales over the launch weekend. The strong demand will benefit all iPhone carriers, including Sprint.

An unlimited data offering for the iPhone may attract many subscribers to Sprint, which would give a much-needed boost to its declining wireless market share. However, the company has to maintain data speeds and network quality to be relevant in the wireless race. There have been complaints from Sprint’s subscribers about low data speeds after the iPhone 4S launch.

See our complete analysis for Sprint Nextel’s stock here.

Sales of the iPhone 4S over the Oct. 14 launch weekend reached 4 million units, beating Apple’s earlier record of 1.7 million sales of its iPhone 4 last year. Sprint, a distant third in wireless market share, is likely to benefit the most with its unlimited data plan offering, which is attractive to data hungry iPhone subscribers.

Sprint’s CDMA wireless market share has declined from an estimated 11.3% in 2007 to 9.5% in 2010 amid strong competition from ATT and Verizon and deteriorating customer service. The company is making efforts to develop an independent 4G LTE network to be launched in the second half of 2012 to ensure better speeds and reduce costs as it will reduce dependence on WiMAX network provider Clearwire. This speed improvement, coupled with the iPhone deal, should help Sprint bring in more subscribers and regain lost market share.

All of this, however, is contingent upon Sprint maintaining its network quality and data speeds, which are critical for retaining smartphone users. Recent reports suggest that Sprint’s subscribers are complaining of slow data speeds since the launch of the iPhone 4 S. If these issues persist, it could drive subscribers away from Sprint and impact the company’s stock price further.

Article source: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11285080/1/sprints-iphone-4s-not-enough.html

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