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Additions offset a troubling revenue drop, meager 500k iPhone 5 sales

Good news has been few and far between for Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) U.S. brand T-Mobile USA, but the company -- America's fourth largest cellular carrier -- received some such news in its Q1 2013 earnings report.  The "uncarrier" added 202,000 branded prepaid customers, which offset loss of 199,000 contract customers to make for a net gain of 3,000 branded customers.  The branded growth was the first T-Mobile has seen since Q1 2009.

T-Mobile is phasing out contracts and phone subsidies, and moving towards a monthly access charge model using unlocked, unsubsidized handsets.  The carrier posted an even bigger gain -- 579,000 customers -- when its other brands, such as the MVNO prepaid service, were factored in.  Postpaid (contract) customer churn (customer loss) was at 1.9 percent, the lowest level since Q2 2008.  And postpaid customer losses were down 61 percent on a year-to-year basis.

While T-Mobile USA appears to be righting the ship on the subscriber front, revenue wasn't such a pretty picture.  Average revenue per user (ARPU) for postpaid declined 6.3 percent.  ARPU for prepaid rose 11.3 percent, but was not enough to bridge the gap.  Overall T-Mobile's only pulled in a EBITDA (a profitability measure) of $1.2B USD, down 7.5 percent on a year-to-year basis.

T-Mobile wide

T-Mobile USA moved a relatively competitive 500,000 Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPhone 5s in the first few weeks of availability.  Contrast that with rival carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) which sold a mere 1.5 million iPhone 4s, 4Ss, and 5s during three whole months of Q1.  T-Mobile USA's iPhone sales rate is behind AT&T, Inc. (T) which sold 4.8 million units in Q1.

T-Mobile USA was recently involved in a rather complex merger deal --approved by U.S. federal regulators in March -- involves MetroPCS splitting its shares, then paying out $1.5B USD to shareholders (roughly half the market cap). This will dilute its stake by taking 74 percent of the resulting shares, while giving the combined company all of T-Mobile shares (meaning Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE) will no longer directly own T-Mobile USA).

There's a new rumor that Japan's fastest growing mobile carrier, Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984), is eyeing acquiring the resulting semi-independent T-Mobile USA and merging it with Sprint, if it can beat Dish Network Corp.'s (DISHrival bid for Sprint.  While Softbank has yet to even win the acquisition of Sprint, the potential plan to merge America's third and fourth largest carriers is drawing buzz.

Sources: T-Mobile, Seattle Times





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