U.S. Cellular launches M2M pricing and solutions, plans tower sale

LAS VEGAS--U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) is in the midst of expanding its M2M business, and as part of that effort the company has recently introduced new M2M solutions in the areas of fleet tracking, asset management, monitoring and sensors, forms and other general business solutions. The company also recently introduced new M2M service pricing in an effort to more efficiently tailor its solutions toward potential M2M clients.

U.S. Cellular is a relative latecomer to the M2M game. Other carriers, notably AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), have built massive businesses around machine-to-machine communications. For example, AT&T recently expanded sales of its Digital Life home automation offering into the health monitoring and care segment, and in the connected car space AT&T counts the likes of General Motors, Audi, Tesla and others as customers.

However, AT&T has a distinct advantage against other U.S. wireless carriers due to the broach reach of its domestic network and its ability to offer roaming solutions across the world via its support of the GSM technology path.

Nonetheless, U.S. Cellular clearly is looking for new revenue streams as it seeks to prop up a somewhat slugging postpaid wireless phone business.

As for the carrier's new M2M pricing, it ranges from 1 MB for $6.99 per month to 10 GB for $119.99 per month. The carrier's pricing is noteworthy since other wireless carriers generally don't publish their M2M pricing and oftentimes develop custom pricing packages for each major M2M customer. Previously, U.S. Cellular charged its M2M customers the same as its retail customers.

M2M isn't the only new venture at U.S. Cellular. The carrier recently disclosed that it is working to sell additional "non-strategic assets." Specifically, the company said it is now selling 595 non-strategic cell towers "in areas outside of its core market focus." The company said Wells Fargo Securities and TD Securities are managing the potential sale.

Interestingly, Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) recently disclosed it is considering the sale of some of its own tower assets, though it didn't reveal any other details.

U.S. Cellular also said that in August it scored its third consecutive month of postpaid customer growth. The carrier previously said that it achieved positive net postpaid additions in June and July "through strong growth in gross customer additions and improved churn rates."

The results are a notable reversal from the regional carrier's recent performance. In the second quarter of this year, U.S. Cellular reported it lost around 30,000 net retail subscribers in the second quarter, compared to 45,000 net retail subscriber losses in the year-ago quarter and 80,000 in the first quarter. The carrier reported postpaid net losses of 26,000, down substantially from 120,000 in the year-ago period and down from 93,000 it lost in the first quarter, when it was still dealing with billing system errors that plagued it during the second half of 2013.

Jay Ellison, the carrier's executive vice president of operations, said U.S. Cellular isn't planning to offer any specific promotions around its upcoming launch of the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL)iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but he said the carrier is considering some promotions--possibly around tablets--during the holiday shopping season. However, he cautioned that the carrier has made no firm plans about those potential promotions.

For more:
- see this U.S. Cellular release

Related Articles:
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U.S. Cellular loses 80K subs in Q1, says it is moving beyond billing system errors
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