Regional wireless operator U.S. Cellular continued to bleed customers through the final three months of 2013, a trend it witnessed throughout all of last year.
U.S. Cellular said it lost 97,000 direct customers through the fourth quarter of 2013, including 71,000 postpaid and 26,000 prepaid subscribers. The results were a big turnaround from the 18,000 customers the carrier managed to add during the fourth quarter of 2012, which included a loss of 19,000 postpaid customers offset by a gain of 37,000 prepaid subscribers.
For the full year, U.S. Cellular saw its customer base shrink by 215,000 total subscribers, with its customer base standing at 4.774 million at the end of 2013.
A year-over-year increase in customer churn and a drop in gross customer additions doomed both the postpaid and prepaid markets for the carrier. Postpaid churn increased from 1.7% during the fourth quarter of 2012 to 1.9% in 2013, while gross customer additions dropped by 15%. On the prepaid side, churn spiked from 5.1% in 2012 to 8.3% in 2013, while gross customer additions plunged nearly 28%.
The carrier blamed continuing billing system issues for the increase in customer churn and resulting drop in its customer base.
Average revenue per user dropped 46 cents year-over-year to $50.25, while ARPU including inbound roaming dipped 62 cents to $57.05.
The drop in both its customer base and spending by those that are left impacted total revenues, which fell 19% year-over-year to $902.7 million during the fourth quarter of 2013. Despite the decline in revenues, a 21% drop in operating expenses reduced net losses from $39.6 million in 2012 to a net profit of $1.6 million in 2013.
For the full year, revenues slipped 12% to $3.9 billion in 2013, while a similar percentage drop in operating expenses and other tax-related events helped increase net income 26% to $140 million.
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