Sprint (NYSE:S) MVNO Ting confirmed that as of the end of the second quarter it had 25,000 total customers, an indication of strong momentum for the company but a paltry figure in the larger wireless landscape.
Michael Cooperman, the CFO of Ting parent Tucows, disclosed the subscriber figure during Tucows' second-quarter earnings conference call last week. Ting Director Scott Allan confirmed the figure to FierceWireless.
Allan noted that as of the end of 2012 Ting had 10,000 subscribes, after being in operation for 10 months, and that in the next six months it picked up 15,000 customers. He also noted that Ting counts "subscribers" as total accounts, and since customers can share data among multiple devices under Ting's plans, he said that each "subscriber account" has an average of 1.6 devices per account.
"We are extremely happy with the growth to date," Allan said. "We are focusing on maintaining or accelerating it as much as we can. We feel like we're really just getting started."
The disclosure is notable because most MVNOs do not detail how many subscribers they hold. The main exception in the U.S. market is TracFone Wireless, which is owned by América Móvil. TracFone is the largest U.S. MVNO and had 23 million customers at the end of the second quarter. Earlier this year TracFone acquired Start Wireless' Page Plus Cellular, an MVNO that counts around 1.4 million customers in the United States. Page Plus was primarily an MVNO of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ).
However, most MVNOs are circumspect about their subscriber figures, mainly because of agreements they have with their carrier partners. FreedomPop, another Sprint MVNO that started its service in October 2012 using Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network, recently indicated it had 100,000 total subscribers.
Ting offers minutes, text messages and data in different buckets. If customers use more than they have paid for in a certain month, they are not charged an overage fee, but instead are bumped up to the next usage tier for that month. Likewise, if customers use less than they had thought they would need, they are bumped down to the next lowest usage tier and will receive a credit on their bill for the difference. Users can continuously monitor their usage via an online dashboard.
In June, Ting said it would stop requiring customers to put a deposit down at the beginning of their month of service and would instead only charge customers based on what they use, instituting a postpaid billing model.
Zact, a brand of parent company ItsOn (and a 2013 Fierce 15 winner) recently launched a service that is similar in some respects to Ting's. The service, which also runs on Sprint's network, lets customers dynamically adjust their plans on the go, adding or dropping voice minutes, text messages or data as they see fit. There is no limit to the number of Zact-enabled devices a user can add to an account, and once added, customers can allocate and customize the amount of voice, texting and data assigned to each person or device. Customers pay a $4.99 monthly maintenance charge per device, but there are no additional fees for sharing. Importantly, if a user does not use all that they intended with the plan they picked out, Zact will automatically credit money back to a user's account for the difference between that plan and the least expensive plan that matched the customer's usage.
"Growth is tough. It's very competitive out there," Ting's Allan acknowledged. "We're keeping our expectations modest but definitely the plan is to grow."
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript
MVNO Ting drops need for deposit, moves to postpaid billing model
MVNO Ting to reach breakeven in Q4; 40-50% of new customers are BYOD
Sprint MVNO Zact offers customized data plans, no overage charges
Ting sets aside $100,000 to cover ETF costs for customers who break contracts
MVNO Ting will not charge activation fee for BYOD program
Sprint MVNO Ting to launch BYOD program in Q4
Article updated Aug. 12 at 3:45 p.m. ET to reflect that each Ting "subscriber account" has an average of 1.6 devices per account.