MetroPCS LTE subs top 3M, up from 2.2M at year-end

MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) Chairman and CEO Roger Linquist said the company's LTE subscribers now top 3 million, accounting for 35 percent of the company's customer base. That's an increase of 800,000 over the 2.2 million the company reported as of the end of 2012, which means the company's LTE base is growing at a rate of about 100,000 per week.

During its fourth quarter earnings call with analysts, MetroPCS executives said 50 percent of the company's gross adds were LTE and 78 percent of customers' upgrades are to LTE smartphones.

MetroPCS, which pre-reported its fourth quarter earnings in January, reiterated that it had lost another 93,000 customers in fourth quarter, bringing its total customer base to 8.9 million compared to 9.35 million a year ago. Nevertheless, the company's strong LTE growth is notable. In the fourth quarter, its LTE subscriber base topped 2.2 million, an increase of 117 percent from third quarter 2012.

Company executives said the decline in customers was deliberate, noting that there was no reason to grow the CDMA customer base when the company was investing in its LTE network and more affordable LTE handsets were becoming available.  

Linquist also provided some additional details about the company's VoLTE service, noting that there are six markets where VoLTE is operational and that all handsets the company launches will be VoLTE compatible. "There were some concerns about voice quality," Linquist said, "but its proving to be better than what we have seen on the CDMA network."

Here's a breakdown of other key metrics from the fourth quarter:

Financials: MetroPCS also saw its profits plummet in the fourth quarter to $32 million, down from $91 million in fourth quarter 2011. The company blamed the drop on higher handset subsidies due to the growth in LTE subscribers. The company's quarterly consolidated revenue was $1.3 billion, an increase of 4 percent over the previous year. In addition, adjusted EBITDA was $307 million.

Churn: MetroPCS reported a churn of 3.6 percent, down from 3.7 percent the previous quarter.

ARPU: Average revenue per user was $40.86, an increase of 31 cents over the previous year.

CPGA: The company's cost per gross addition was $228 in the fourth quarter, an increase of $62 compared to the prior year.

For more:
- see this press release
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

Special Report: Wireless in the fourth quarter of 2012

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