U.S. Cellular seizes chance to fill void for ‘fairness’

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U.S. Cellular said now is the time for it to reinforce its values and highlight the customer experience it delivers. (Pixabay)

U.S. Cellular on Friday announced that it is launching a “new idea” in wireless, but one that’s been at the company’s core since it started in 1983: fairness, and that transcends customer service, its network and investments in local communities.

The company isn’t saying how much it’s spending on the campaign, but a spokesperson said it’s making a “significant investment” for its brand evolution and will be incorporating the new message of fairness across a variety of channels throughout this year and into 2020.

The company said it’s emphasizing this message through new and improved pricing plans, a faster national network experience and “bolder, integrated communications.” The message will be communicated with marketing, retail, website, customer appreciation and local community events.

It’s also going to be featuring the fairness message in mass TV, print, radio and digital messaging that will run throughout the company’s footprint.

“Now is the time for us to elevate how we tell our story, to reinforce our values and highlight the customer experience we deliver that makes us unique,” said Jay Spenchian, senior vice president of marketing for U.S. Cellular, in a statement. “It’s time to reintroduce ourselves to consumers and to give them unique and compelling reasons to choose and stay with U.S. Cellular.” 

Asked if there was any particular reason for launching the campaign now given the competitive landscape or if it was a jab at rival T-Mobile, the spokesperson reiterated that fairness isn’t a new idea for U.S. Cellular. “It’s built into our organization for how we operate every day. Through our research, we saw a gap in the wireless category where people still don’t believe there is a carrier who is on their side. Now is our time to share more about who we are and what we stand for, in bold, new and exciting ways.”

U.S. Cellular said there are no hidden fees and with its Payback plan, customers are eligible to get paid back $10 per month when they use less than 3 GB of data per line. The company also does “fairness checks” with customers to help provide them the best plan options and products.

It also emphasizes that it makes sure consumers in more rural areas aren’t left out from getting access to the latest tech and fast data speeds by building its 5G network like it has in the past, “starting in areas where other carriers are not.”

RELATED: U.S. Cellular loses 26K postpaid subs in Q2, readies for 5G launch in 2020

The company in its second-quarter financials release said it would be putting “aggressive plans and strategies in place” to attract new customers in the second half of this year. The company lost 26,000 net postpaid subscribers in the second quarter but saw service revenue growth driven by increases in average revenue per user (ARPU).

U.S. Cellular has about 4.5 million postpaid subscribers and 500,000 prepaid. It lost 26,000 net postpaid subscribers in the second quarter. Postpaid churn was 1.23 percent.

While the company is feeling the effects of cable MVNOs in some of its markets, U.S. Cellular CEO Ken Meyers acknowledged during the second-quarter conference call that T-Mobile is in most of U.S. Cellular’s markets already with at least one of its brands, and he doesn’t expect it to make great headway into the more rural markets because reaching rural America is part of the rationale they’re using to get the deal with Sprint approved. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for them to aggressively roll out in those areas until the transaction is a done deal.

As for Dish, he indicated he’s also taking a wait-and-see approach there. If it does end up getting the green light as part of the deal with T-Mobile and Sprint, then it will take a long time for Dish to build out and historically, the big payback is in dense areas, not in the less populated ones.

On the same call, CTO Mike Irizzary said U.S. Cellular’s 5G deployment strategy is similar to T-Mobile’s in that it’s also using low-band spectrum, but the difference with it and other carriers is its use of millimeter wave will be on macro sites much higher up on the tower. Other carriers have focused on lamp-post heights, and the expectation is that they eventually will move to the higher sites.