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S > SEC Filings for S > Form 10-Q on 7-Nov-2012All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for SPRINT NEXTEL CORP

Form 10-Q for SPRINT NEXTEL CORP


7-Nov-2012

Quarterly Report


Item 2. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and
Results of Operations

OVERVIEW
Sprint Nextel Corporation, including its consolidated subsidiaries, ("Sprint," "we," "us," "our" or the "Company") is a communications company offering a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications products and services that are designed to meet the needs of individual consumers, businesses, government subscribers, and resellers. The communications industry has been and will continue to be highly competitive on the basis of the quality and types of services and devices offered, as well as price. The Company is currently undergoing a significant multi-year program, Network Vision, to upgrade its existing wireless communication network, including the decommissioning of its Nextel platform for which we expect to re-purpose valuable spectrum resources that currently support that network (see "Overview - Network Vision"). To support our business and expected capital requirements associated with Network Vision, we have raised debt financing of approximately $7.5 billion during 2011 and 2012 as well as a secured equipment credit facility with a remaining availability of up to $923 million as of September 30, 2012 (see "Liquidity and Capital Resources - Liquidity").
During the Network Vision modernization program, we intend to achieve growth by focusing on the addition of profitable subscribers on the Sprint platform, including the recapture of subscribers from the Nextel platform, as we execute on the planned shutdown of the Nextel platform. In the first quarter of 2012, we formalized our plans to decommission the Nextel platform and ceased using approximately one-third, or 9,600 cell sites in the middle of 2012. We expect the remainder of the Nextel platform, or approximately 20,000 sites, to be substantially shut down by the middle of 2013. Since the first quarter 2011, we have achieved approximately 2.4 million net postpaid subscriber additions on the Sprint platform, inclusive of approximately 1.7 million postpaid subscribers recaptured from the Nextel platform, while the Nextel postpaid platform has incurred approximately 3.4 million net subscriber losses. We are competing with other wireless service providers to maintain the ongoing customer relationship with the Nextel subscribers through service provided on our Sprint platform. During the nine-month period ended September 30, 2012, we have achieved a recapture rate of approximately 56% of the Nextel platform postpaid subscribers, based on net postpaid subscribers that terminated service on the Nextel platform during that same period. In addition, recaptured Nextel platform subscribers, on average, carry a slightly higher average revenue per subscriber on the Sprint platform as a result of smartphone adoption by such subscribers. At September 30, 2012, there were approximately 3.1 million Nextel platform subscribers, of which approximately 2.3 million and 800,000 represent postpaid and prepaid, respectively. More than 80% of the remaining 2.3 million Nextel platform postpaid subscribers represent business accounts. Accordingly, although we will continue to pursue the recapture of these subscribers, we expect the level of competition for these subscribers as well as the timing of business customer decisions to cause the rate of recapture for subsequent periods to decline through the final shutdown of the Nextel platform. Prospectively, our efforts will continue to focus on profitable growth through service provided on an enhanced wireless network on the Sprint platform while continuing to improve the customer experience, strengthen our brands and generate operating cash flow. Description of the Company
We are the third largest wireless communications company in the United States based on wireless revenue, one of the largest providers of wireline long distance services, and one of the largest Internet carriers in the nation. Our services are provided through our ownership of extensive wireless networks, an all-digital global long distance network and a Tier 1 Internet backbone. We offer wireless and wireline voice and data transmission services to subscribers in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands under the Sprint corporate brand, which includes our retail brands of Sprint®, Boost Mobile®, Virgin Mobile®, and Assurance Wireless® on networks that utilize third generation (3G) code division multiple access (CDMA), integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN), or Internet protocol (IP) technologies. We also offer fourth generation (4G) services through our deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) as part of our network modernization plan, Network Vision, and also utilize Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) technology through our mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) wholesale relationship with Clearwire Corporation and its subsidiary Clearwire Communications LLC (together "Clearwire"). We utilize these networks to offer our wireless and wireline subscribers differentiated products and services whether through the use of a single network or a combination of these networks. We offer wireless services on a postpaid and prepaid payment basis to retail subscribers and also on a wholesale and affiliate basis, which includes the sale of wireless services that utilize the Sprint network but are sold under the wholesaler's brand. We


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provide a broad suite of wireline voice and data communications services to other communications companies and targeted business and consumer subscribers. In addition, we provide voice, data, and IP communication services to our Wireless segment, and IP and other services to cable Multiple System Operators (MSOs) that resell our local and long distance services and use our back office systems and network assets in support of their telephone service provided over cable facilities primarily to residential end-use subscribers.
Our business strategy is to be responsive to changing customer mobility demands by being innovative and differentiated in the marketplace. Our future growth plans and strategy revolve around achieving the following three key priorities:
• Improve the customer experience;

• Strengthen our brands; and

• Generate operating cash flow.

We have reduced confusion over pricing plans and complex bills with our Simply Everything® and Everything Data plans and our Any Mobile AnytimeSM feature. We also offer price plans tailored to business subscribers such as Business Advantage, which allows for the flexibility to mix and match plans that include voice, voice and messaging, or voice, messaging and data to meet individual business needs and also allows the Any Mobile Anytime feature with certain plans. To simplify and improve the customer experience, we continue to offer Ready Now, which trains our subscribers before they leave the store on how to use their mobile devices. We aim to increase our business customers' productivity by providing differentiated services that utilize the advantages of combining IP networks with wireless technology. This differentiation enables us to retain and acquire both wireline, wireless and combined wireline-wireless subscribers on our networks. We have also continued to focus on further improving customer care. We implemented initiatives that are designed to improve call center processes and procedures, and standardized our performance measures through various metrics, including customer satisfaction ratings with respect to customer care, first call resolution, and calls per subscriber. Our product strategy is to provide our customers with a broad array of device selections and applications and services that run on these devices to meet the growing needs of customer mobility. Our multi-functional device portfolio includes many cutting edge devices from various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Our mobile broadband portfolio consists of devices such as hotspots, which allow the connection of multiple WiFi enabled devices. Our networks can also be accessed through our portfolio of embedded tablets and laptop devices.
We support the open development of applications, content, and devices on our network platforms through products and services such as Google Voice™, which allows for functionality such as one phone number for all devices (home, wireless, office, etc.), routing calls between devices, and in-call options to switch between devices during a call, and Google Wallet™, which provides the ability to store loyalty, gift and credit cards, and to tap and pay while you shop using your wireless device. We have recently introduced Sprint Guardian, a collection of mobile safety and device security bundles that provide families relevant tools to help stay safe and secure, and Pinsight Media+, a new advertising service giving advertisers the power to reach consumers on their mobile device by providing more relevant advertising based on information consumers choose to share about their location and mobile Web browsing history. In addition, we enable a variety of business and consumer third-party relationships through our portfolio of machine-to-machine solutions, which we offer on a retail postpaid and wholesale basis. Our machine-to-machine solutions portfolio provides a secure, real-time, and reliable wireless two-way data connection across a broad range of connected devices, including OEM devices and after-market in-vehicle connectivity and electric vehicle charging stations, point-of-sale systems, kiosks and vending machines, asset tracking, digital signage, security, smartgrid utilities, medical equipment, and a variety of other consumer electronics and appliances.
Our prepaid portfolio currently includes multiple brands, each designed to appeal to specific subscriber segments. Boost Mobile serves subscribers who are voice and text messaging-centric with its popular Monthly Unlimited plan with Shrinkage service where bills are reduced after six on-time payments. Virgin Mobile serves subscribers who are device and data-oriented with our Beyond Talk™ plans and our broadband plan, Broadband2Go, which offer subscribers control, flexibility, and connectivity through various communication vehicles. Virgin Mobile is also designated as a Lifeline-only Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in certain states which provides service for the Lifeline program under our Assurance Wireless brand. Assurance Wireless provides eligible subscribers who meet income requirements or are receiving government assistance with a free wireless phone and 250 free minutes of local and long-distance monthly service. We have focused our wholesale business on enabling our diverse network of customers to successfully


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grow their business by providing them with an array of network, product, and device solutions. This allows our customers to customize this full suite of value-added solutions to meet the growing demands of their businesses. As part of these growing demands, some of our wholesale MVNO's are also selling prepaid services under the Lifeline program.
In addition to our brand and customer-oriented goals, we continue to focus on generating increased operating cash flow through competitive rate plans for postpaid and prepaid subscribers, multi-branded strategies, and effectively managing our cost structure. Certain of our strategic decisions, such as Network Vision and the introduction of the iPhone®, which on average carries a higher equipment net subsidy, will result in a reduction in cash flows from operations in the near term. However, we believe these actions will generate long-term benefits, including growth in valuable postpaid subscribers, a reduction in variable cost of service per unit and long-term accretion to cash flows from operations. See "Liquidity and Capital Resources" for more information. Network Vision
In December 2010, we announced Network Vision, a multi-year network infrastructure initiative intended to provide subscribers with an enhanced network experience by improving voice quality, coverage, and data speeds, while enhancing network flexibility, reducing operating costs, and improving environmental sustainability through the utilization of multiple spectrum bands onto a single multi-mode base station. In addition to implementing these multi-mode base stations, this plan encompasses next-generation push-to-talk technology with broadband capabilities and the integration of multi-mode chipsets into smartphones, tablets and other broadband devices, including machine-to-machine products. Through the deployment of Network Vision, we are migrating to a single nationwide network allowing for the consolidation and optimization of our 800 megahertz (MHz) and 1.9 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum, as well as other spectrum owned by third-parties, into multi-mode stations allowing us to repurpose spectrum to enhance coverage, particularly around the in-building experience. The multi-mode technology also utilizes software-based solutions with interchangeable hardware to provide greater network flexibility, which also allows for the deployment of LTE. As we migrate to a single nationwide network, we have begun to decommission the Nextel platform, which has enabled us to begin eliminating some of the ongoing fixed costs of this network. As a result, we expect to continue the trend of net losses of retail subscribers on our Nextel platform as we target retention of these subscribers to the Sprint platform during the period in which we are preparing for the shutdown of the Nextel platform, which began during the first quarter 2012 and is expected to continue through the middle of 2013. The net losses on the Nextel platform are expected to fluctuate depending on the timing of subscriber decisions and the nature of the subscriber base affected by our decommissioning efforts. Accordingly, although we will continue to pursue the recapture of these subscribers, we expect the level of competition for these subscribers as well as the timing of business customer decisions to cause the rate of recapture for subsequent periods to decline as we approach the final shutdown of the Nextel platform.
Work has begun on approximately 38,000 cell sites, and we powered on-air our first multi-mode base station on December 6, 2011. As of September 30, 2012 we had launched LTE in 24 cities. Further deployments of Network Vision technology, including LTE market launches and enhancements of our 3G technology, are expected to continue through the middle of 2014. We expect Network Vision to bring financial benefit to the Company through migration to one common network, which is expected to reduce network maintenance and operating costs through capital efficiencies, reduced energy costs, lower roaming expenses, backhaul savings, and reduction in total cell sites. Our expectation of financial savings is affected by multiple variables, including our expectation of the timeliness of deployment across our existing network footprint. We revised our plan to bring 12,000 multi-mode base stations on-air by the end of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013. The deployment of multi-mode technology is project managed by Sprint but dependent upon three primary OEMs, each of which has responsibility for a geographical territory across the United States. We have recently experienced delays with vendor execution, backhaul connectivity delays, shortages in equipment such as fiber cable and antennas, as well as other regulatory and environmental issues. However, we expect that we will recover from these delays and we are still forecasting to have the majority of the sites on-air by the end of 2013 with expected completion of Network Vision deployment by the middle of 2014.
The deployment related to changes in technology have resulted in incremental charges during the period of implementation of our multi-mode technology and Nextel platform decommissioning including, but not limited to, an increase in depreciation associated with existing assets related to both the Nextel and Sprint platforms due to changes in our estimates of the remaining useful lives of long-lived assets, changes in the expected timing and amount of asset retirement obligations, and lease exit and other contract termination costs. In the first quarter of


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2012, we formalized our plans to take off-air roughly one-third, or 9,600 cell sites, of our total Nextel platform by the middle of 2012 with the remaining sites to be taken off-air by the end of 2013. As a result, in the first quarter 2012, we revised our estimates to shorten the expected useful lives of Nextel platform assets through the expected benefit period of the underlying assets through 2013 and also revised the expected timing and amount of our asset retirement obligations. During the second quarter 2012, as a result of progress in taking Nextel platform sites off-air and progress toward notifying and transitioning customers off the Nextel platform, we further reduced our estimated benefit period for the remaining Nextel platform assets through the middle of 2013 resulting in incremental depreciation expense. The amounts reflected as depreciation expense are dependent upon the expected useful lives of assets, which includes our expectation of the timing of assets to be phased out of service, and could result in further revision during the decommissioning period. We estimate the incremental effect of accelerated depreciation related to Nextel platform assets and related asset retirement obligations in our full year 2012 results to be in the range of approximately $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion. The remaining net book value of Nextel platform assets as of September 30, 2012 was approximately $1.5 billion, which we expect to recognize as depreciation expense on an approximately ratable basis through June 30, 2013. As of the end of the third quarter 2012 we achieved the 2012 target to take 9,600 cell sites off-air which has resulted in lease exit costs totaling approximately $206 million. We expect to complete our transition of customers from the Nextel platform to our Sprint platform as early as June 2013, which should allow us to take off-air the remainder of our Nextel platform sites. We expect to incur significant additional charges in the future under other tower lease agreements as we continue to take off-air Nextel platform sites as well as transition our existing backhaul architecture to a replacement technology for our remaining network sites.
We are also experiencing increased data usage driven by more subscribers on the Sprint platform and a continuing shift in our subscriber base to smartphones, which has required additional capital expenditures of legacy 3G Sprint platform equipment (legacy equipment). As we deploy Network Vision, we intend to maximize the use of previously deployed legacy equipment when possible; however, based on our capacity needs during the implementation period of Network Vision, we expect additional legacy equipment expenditures that will not be utilized beyond the final deployment of Network Vision's multi-mode technology, which is expected to continue through the middle of 2014. As a result, the estimated useful lives of such equipment have been shortened, as compared to similar prior capital expenditures, which we also expect will contribute to an increase in depreciation expense. There is approximately $1.6 billion in net book value of legacy equipment currently in-service with shortened estimated useful lives, which is resulting in accelerated depreciation as of September 30, 2012. In addition, capital expenditures of approximately $200 million related to legacy equipment are included in construction in progress as of September 30, 2012, which we also expect to have a shortened estimated useful life when placed in-service. Furthermore, based on current estimates of increased data usage, we expect additional capital expenditures of legacy equipment until our network modernization is substantially complete.


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RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
                                                  Three Months Ended         Nine Months Ended
                                                    September 30,              September 30,
                                                   2012         2011         2012         2011
                                                                 (in millions)
Wireless segment earnings                      $   1,118      $ 1,214     $  3,469     $  3,599
Wireline segment earnings                            158          184          468          622
Corporate, other and eliminations                      3            4            6            9
Consolidated segment earnings                      1,279        1,402        3,943        4,230
Depreciation and amortization                     (1,488 )     (1,194 )     (5,050 )     (3,684 )
Other, net                                           (22 )          -           (8 )          -
Operating (loss) income                             (231 )        208       (1,115 )        546
Interest expense                                    (377 )       (236 )       (996 )       (724 )
Equity in losses of unconsolidated investments
and other, net                                      (112 )       (261 )       (783 )     (1,261 )
Income tax expense                                   (47 )        (12 )       (110 )       (148 )
Net loss                                       $    (767 )    $  (301 )   $ (3,004 )   $ (1,587 )

Consolidated segment earnings decreased $123 million, or 9%, and $287 million, or 7%, in the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012 as compared to the same periods in 2011. Consolidated segment earnings consist of our Wireless and Wireline segments, which are discussed below, and Corporate, other and eliminations.
Depreciation and Amortization Expense
Depreciation expense increased $297 million, or 27%, and $1.5 billion, or 44%, in the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012 compared to the same periods in 2011. The Network Vision deployment is resulting in incremental charges during the period of implementation including, but not limited to, an increase in depreciation associated with existing assets related to both the Nextel and Sprint platforms, due to changes in our estimates of the remaining useful lives of long-lived assets, and the expected timing and amount of asset retirement obligations, which we expect to continue to have a material impact on our results of operations during 2012 and 2013. The incremental effect of accelerated depreciation due to the implementation of Network Vision was approximately $400 million and $1.7 billion, of which the majority related to the Nextel platform, during the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012. The increase related to accelerated depreciation was slightly offset by a net decrease in depreciation as a result of assets that became fully depreciated or were retired. The amount of accelerated depreciation in the first and second quarter 2012 was disproportionately higher than the third quarter 2012, primarily as a result of our initial phase of taking Nextel platform sites off-air. The amount of accelerated depreciation for the remainder of 2012 and each of the first two quarters of 2013 is expected to remain consistent with the third quarter 2012 based on our current estimate of the remaining time we will receive benefit from these assets. In addition to the incremental depreciation expense resulting from revisions to estimated useful lives, we plan to increase capital expenditures during the period of implementation of Network Vision, which is also expected to result in an increase in depreciation expense over the next several years as those assets are placed in service.
Amortization expense declined $3 million, or 4%, and $97 million, or 30%, in the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012 as compared to the same periods in 2011, primarily due to the absence of amortization for customer relationship intangible assets related to the 2006 acquisition of Nextel Partners, Inc. and the 2009 acquisition of Virgin Mobile USA, Inc., which became fully amortized in the second quarter 2011. Customer relationships are amortized using the sum-of-the-years'-digits method, resulting in higher amortization rates in early periods that decline over time.


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Other, net
The following table provides additional information of items included in "Other,
net" for the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012 and 2011.
                                                     Three Months Ended               Nine Months Ended
                                                       September 30,                    September 30,
                                                    2012              2011           2012            2011
                                                                       (in millions)
Severance, exit costs and asset impairments    $       (22 )       $      -     $      (290 )     $       -
Spectrum hosting contract termination                    -                -             236               -
Gains from asset dispositions and exchanges              -                -              29               -
Favorable developments relating to access cost
disputes                                                 -                -              17               -
Total                                          $       (22 )       $      -     $        (8 )     $       -

Other, net represented expenses of $22 million and $8 million in the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012, respectively, as compared to zero in the same periods in 2011. Severance, exit costs, and asset impairments include lease exit costs associated with taking certain Nextel platform sites off-air in the second and third quarter 2012 and asset impairments in the first quarter 2012, which consisted of $18 million of assets associated with a decision to utilize fiber backhaul, which we expect to be more cost effective, rather than microwave backhaul and $66 million of capitalized assets that we no longer intend to deploy as a result of the termination of the spectrum hosting arrangement with LightSquared in the first quarter 2012. We did not accrue lease exit costs for certain sites taken off-air in the second and third quarter of 2012 as these sites are subject to agreements under which we expect to continue to receive economic benefit for the remaining term. As a result of this factor, as well as the variability of factors that are used in the estimate of lease exit costs, the relationship of the costs recognized in the current quarter to the number of sites taken off-air is not necessarily indicative of future per-site charges as we complete our transition of Nextel customers and continue to take sites off-air. Spectrum hosting contract termination is due to the recognition of $236 million of the total $310 million paid by LightSquared in 2011 as operating income in "Other, net" due to the termination of our spectrum hosting arrangement with LiqhtSquared. Additional information related to these items can be found in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Interest Expense
Interest expense increased $141 million, or 60%, and $272 million, or 38%, in the three and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2012, respectively, as compared to the same periods in 2011, primarily due to increased weighted average long-term debt balances as a result of 2011 and 2012 debt issuances partially offset by 2011 and 2012 debt repayments, in addition to increased effective interest rates as well as reductions in the amount of interest capitalized primarily related to spectrum licenses. We expect interest capitalization related to spectrum licenses not previously utilized to continue to decline as we plan to have a substantial portion of the value of our spectrum licenses to be ready for use during 2012. The effective interest rate, which . . .

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