Regional carrier U.S. Cellular said it will increase the number of smartphones in its lineup to meet customers' growing appetite for data-capable devices. The company also plans an eventual move to LTE network technology, but offered no timetable for the action.
The carrier, which reported weaker second-quarter results Thursday, said it sold 30,000 units of the Samsung Acclaim, its first phone running on Google's Android platform, in the first three weeks after it introduced the device in July.
Alan Ferber, executive vice president of operations at U.S. Cellular, said the carrier will introduce the HTC Desire and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry Bold later this month. Additionally, Ferber told analysts on the company's earnings conference call that the the carrier will launch the Samsung Galaxy S as well as two smartphones from LG later this year. Ferber said 18 percent of U.S. Cellular's subscriber base has "data-optimized" devices, up from 8 percent in the year-ago period.
U.S. Cellular reported a net subscriber loss of 3,000 customers in the second quarter, halting two consecutive quarters of subscriber gains. The company posted a profit of $40.8 million in the quarter, down from $81.8 million in the year-ago period.
Ferber also said the carrier continues to work with multiple, unnamed vendors on LTE technical trials, and is planning a launch sometime in the future. The company did not give any specific timeframe for when it might launch LTE services. Kenneth Meyers, the CFO at Telephone & Data Systems, the carrier's parent company, said U.S. Cellular needs to "seed our base before you turn on a 4G network and take advantage of all of that capacity."
Building out an LTE network is not the real issue, Meyers added. He said the issue is whether there will be a sufficient LTE device ecosystem, including handsets, for U.S. Cellular subscribers to take advantage of.
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