T-Mobile reverses branded customers losses, posts 3,000 net additions in Q1

In preliminary subscriber figures for the first quarter of 2013, T-Mobile USA managed to reverse its "branded customer" losses, recording a net gain of 3,000 branded customers during the period. The figure is notable considering T-Mobile reported a loss of 349,000 branded customers in the previous quarter and the loss of 262,000 branded customers in the year-ago quarter.

Branded customers include both prepaid and postpaid customers who pay for service under the T-Mobile brand. At the end of the first quarter, T-Mobile counted a total of 6 million branded prepaid customers and 20 million branded postpaid customers.

Although the results offered a bright light for a carrier that has reported significant losses during the past year, not everything was rosy. T-Mobile lost 199,000 branded postpaid customers during the quarter--postpaid customers typically are the most valuable for a wireless carrier. However, the figure represented an improvement from the loss of 515,000 branded postpaid customers T-Mobile reported in the previous quarter and the 510,000 it lost during the year-ago quarter.

Click here for details on T-Mobile's first quarter.

Overall, T-Mobile reported a gain of 579,000 customers in its first quarter, an improvement from the 61,000 it gained in the fourth quarter and the 187,000 it gained in the same quarter a year ago. T-Mobile's overall net addition of 579,000 customers in the first quarter includes both branded prepaid and postpaid numbers as well as the 200,000 M2M customers and the 376,000 MVNO customers T-Mobile added during the first quarter. T-Mobile specifically pointed to strength in its MVNO business; the carrier's MVNO customer base grew 21 percent year-over-year. 

T-Mobile ended the first quarter with 34 million total customers, putting the carrier behind Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S),  AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in terms of overall subscribers.

Additionally, T-Mobile reported that its branded postpaid churn declined to 1.9 percent, down from 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter and year-ago quarter--and its best branded postpaid churn results in four years.

T-Mobile will not report full first quarter earnings until May 8. Further, the results will not reflect the carrier's new "Un-carrier" strategy, which it announced late last month. 

"These results display positive momentum and the first positive branded growth in four years," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. "We have made material progress in stabilizing our branded business in Q1, which provides a solid foundation to build on with the new Un-carrier customer offers we launched last week across America. I believe the best is yet to come!"

What is to come for T-Mobile, however, remains uncertain. The carrier has launched LTE in seven markets and will start selling Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone on April 12, the same day that MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) shareholders will vote on whether to approve a merger with T-Mobile. Investor advisory firms and MetroPCS shareholders have come out against the deal in recent weeks and it is unclear how shareholders will ultimately vote. The deal is seen as crucial to T-Mobile's long-term network strategy since acquiring MetroPCS' spectrum will allow T-Mobile to deploy a 2X20 MHz LTE network in 90 percent of the top 25 U.S. markets.

As part of T-Mobile's "Un-carrier strategy," Legere has said the company is going to eliminate the prepaid/postpaid distinctions by just going with a no-contract offering without device subsidies. Customers can either buy their smartphone outright for the full cost of the device or they can make a down payment and then pay for the remainder of the cost of the device in monthly installments. Additionally, customers can bring unlocked devices to T-Mobile.

For more:
- see this release
- see this T-Mobile report (PDF)

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