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Sprint adds 1.1 million mobile subscribers, Wi-Fi Xoom

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Mobile operator Sprint may finally have finally stemmed the exodus of subscribers from its services to those of competitors like AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Reporting its results for the first quarter of 2011, Sprint says it added 1.1 million wireless subscribers, the best net new subscriber figure the company has had in five years. The company also announced it plans to start selling a WiFi-only version of the Motorola Xoom tablet beginning May 8—but there’s still no word when (or if) Sprint plans to offer a version with 4G WiMax connectivity.

Sprint reported net operating revenues of $8.3 billion for the first fiscal quarter of 2011 and an operating income of $259 million, although that still translated into a quarterly loss of $439 million. Nonetheless, that loss is just about half of what Sprint lost in the same quarter a year ago, and represents a three percent increase in operating revenues. However, the bright spot on Sprint’s horizon is probably that it added 1.1 million wireless subscribers—846,000 of those are prepaid and 310,000 are postpaid—and recorded exceptionally low levels of prepaid and post-paid subscriber churn: 1.81 and 4.36 percent, respectively. That tends to mean that more folks are paying for Sprint services, and sticking with them.

“With net subscriber additions of 1.1 million, best ever postpaid churn and growing net operating revenues, Sprint maintained the momentum we had exiting 2010,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, in a statement. “In spite of Verizon’s iPhone launch and aggressive competitive responses to it, our simple and unlimited plans, 4G leadership, strong customer service, and successful multi-brand strategy drove solid Sprint performance for the quarter.”

Sprint’s results were also no doubt buoyed by a newly-instituted $10 per month increase for 3G smartphone data plans, which the company chalked up to smartphone users’ massive data usage. However, the additional charge didn’t seem to put off new or existing subscribers.

Sprint also recently managed to iron out a long-boiling pricing dispute with WiMax network operator Clearwire for access to 4G services. So far, Sprint has launched almost two dozen WiMax-enabled devices, including hotspots, USB modems, and 4G-enabled phones like the HTC Evo Shift 4G.

Sprint has also revealed that it will begin selling a WiFi-enabled version of the Motorola Xoom Android tablet for $599 beginning on May 8. Although Verizon Wireless is offering a 3G-enabled version of the Xoom (for $599 with a two year contract, $799 without), Sprint’s version will be like those currently available from Motorola: Wi-Fi only. There’s no word when (or if) Sprint plans to offer 3G- or 4G-enabled versions of the Xoom.