Sprint lost 2M subscribers after Nextel network went dark

Sprint’s(s s) first earnings report as a SoftBank-owned company wasn’t exactly a positive one. Sprint shed 2 million customers in the second quarter, nearly 4 percent of its subscriber base. The big reason was Nextel, which Sprint shut down completely at the end of June.

The network shutdown resulted in 1.3 million iDEN subscriber losses, but that wasn’t Sprint’s only pain point. Its retail prepaid and its wholesale connection businesses also took big hits. The only area where Sprint saw growth was in postpaid contract customers, which increased by 194,000.

That customer exodus contributed to the widening of its quarterly net loss to $1.6 billion from $1.4 billion a year ago. Sprint’s revenues, however, remained steady at $8.9 billion both quarter over quarter and year over year.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse

Sprint executives at Tuesday’s earnings call, however, said the worst was behind them. With the iDEN network fully decommissioned, the steady stream of fleeing Nextel customers will now cease. Sprint’s acquisition of Clearwire and SoftBank’s majority investment in Sprint officially closed in the third quarter, giving Sprint a huge infusion of both capital and spectrum. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said that cash and those airwaves will allow Sprint to become a much stronger competitor and build one of the most powerful networks in the country.

Sprint’s immediate priority is its LTE rollout. Sprint is one of the few carriers still offering unlimited plans. Once those plans are combined with LTE’s superfast speeds across its footprint, Sprint will have a key way to differentiate itself from Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) and AT&T(s t).

To that end, Sprint announced Tuesday it has extended LTE coverage to 40 new markets, most of them small cities with Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Oakland, Calif.; and Jacksonville, Fla., being the exceptions. Sprint has been bringing LTE to the big cities gradually since it began its rollout last year. Last week, it turned on its new 4G service across the Bronx and Brooklyn, but not New York’s other three boroughs. Now it’s starting its Bay Area LTE expansion in Oakland before making its way to San Francisco.

Sprint now has LTE in 151 markets, though it hasn’t yet revealed how much of the population is now covered by its LTE umbrella.