US number four operator Sprint confirmed it is heading in the right direction – albeit the road to recovery is long – with fiscal second quarter results that focus on growth in lucrative postpaid customers.

The company reiterated preliminary figures from last week showing postpaid phone net additions of 347,000 in the July to September period (up from 62,000 a year ago). Postpaid phone churn of 1.37 per cent was the best in company history, and improved year-over-year for the seventh consecutive quarter.

A net loss of $142 million showed the operator has some way to go in mirroring rival T-Mobile’s impressive turnaround tactics, but the loss has narrowed from $585 million a year ago.

Sprint did, however, benefit from a non-cash after-tax gain of $218 million related to certain spectrum swaps with other operators.

Total operating revenue of $8.25 billion grew 3 per cent year-on-year (the first year-on-year growth since 2014), with wireless revenue of $7.85 billion up nearly 5 per cent.

Total customers at Sprint stood at 60.2 million at end fiscal Q2, compared to 57.9 million a year ago (and T-Mobile’s 69.4 million reported yesterday).

In contrast, number one US mobile operator Verizon Wireless ended the period with 113.7 million retail customers, but lost 36,000 phone subscribers.

Number two player AT&T lost 268,000 mainstream wireless phone customers in the period, a further indication of why it feels the need to diversify away from the US wireless business via its mammoth $85 billion Time Warner acquisition.

Having been trumped by the efforts of its closest rival, T-Mobile US, Sprint has been aggressively focused on customer acquisition. And while it saw losses in prepaid (427,000 net), it is gaining more valuable subscribers – which will benefit the bottom line.

Sprint also said about half of new customers are choosing its Unlimited Freedom plan (launched in August).

Looking ahead, Sprint raised guidance for operating income for fiscal year 2016 from $1 billion – $1.5 billion to a range of $1.2 billion – $1.7 billion, partly due to benefits from special items in the quarter.