MetroPCS, Leap post sequential subscriber gains in Q4

Flat-rate players MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) reported subscribers gains in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the third quarter, citing improvements in their business. However, both companies posted weaker subscriber gains than in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Both carriers provided subscriber numbers and churn figures for the fourth quarter ahead of offering full financial results. MetroPCS said it added around 197,000 net subscribers in the fourth quarter, better than the 69,000 it had in the third quarter but down from nearly 298,000 in the year-ago period. Still, the company said it was pleased with its overall progress in 2011, and noted that it added 1.2 million net total subscribers for the year, finishing with 9.3 million customers.

MetroPCS reported churn of 3.7 percent, higher than the 3.5 percent from the year-ago period but down significantly from 4.5 percent in the third quarter. The company attributed the sequential drop in churn to seasonality as well as EV-DO enhancements the company has been adding to cell sites, which have improved network quality, especially for smartphone customers. MetroPCS said in December it would continue to add EV-DO to some of its cell sites, and earlier in 2011 noted that it brought EV-DO to around 20 percent of its sites.

Cricket provider Leap, meanwhile, reported net subscriber additions of 175,000 for the fourth quarter, up substantially from 10,000 in the third quarter but down from 300,000 in the year-ago quarter when it benefited from getting customers from Pocket Communications. Excluding the Pocket additions, Leap added 107,000 net customers in the fourth quarter of 2010. Leap added 413,000 net subscribers in 2011, ending the year with around 5.9 million customers.

Leap also said it expects churn for the fourth quarter to come in between 3.7 percent and 3.9 percent, down from 4 percent in the year-ago period. In a statement, Leap CEO Doug Hutcheson said the carrier benefited from continued strong smartphone uptake as well as adoption of its Muve Music service. Smartphones and Muve devices made up 60 percent of the company's total sales in December, he said.

For more:
- see this MetroPCS release
- see this Dow Jonews Newswires article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this Leap release
- see this separate Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)

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