Alltel: The Numbers Game

The first three months of this year were a subscriber feast for most in the cellular industry. Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT) said Thursday that its customer base grew 63 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2008.

Little Rock, Ark.-based Alltel says it added just over 1 million gross customers "through internal growth" this quarter, a 26 percent increase from a year ago. Net monthly subs added were 163,000, up 50 percent year-over-year, and pay-as-you go customers increased by 183,000. Reseller net adds brought in another 39,000. Total net adds were 385,000, "an all-time high," according to the operator.

The first quarter is traditionally supposed to be a downbeat period for subscriber adds following the holiday season blowout. That hasn't been the case for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless , or T-Mobile US Inc. this year.

Verizon added the most with 1.5 million new customers in the first quarter. In comparison, it brought in 2 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. 1.5 million new customers is very respectable for the chilly winter months, however.

AT&T added 1.2 million for the quarter. T-Mobile nearly added 1 million -- or 2 million if you count the SunCom merger customers. (See T-Mobile Adds 2M in Q1.)

Clearly, carriers are grabbing some fresh blood from Sprint, which lost over a million monthly contract customers in the first quarter. But the numbers show that the major operators are also pulling in new users with faster services and devices like the iPhone. (See Sprint Bleeds Cellular Customers.)

Alltel, meanwhile, reported revenue of $2.3 billion for the first quarter, an 11 percent increase from the same period a year ago. The company reported a net loss of $125 million, due primarily to costs related to the completion of its private equity merger. Alltel completed its merger with an affiliate of TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners in November 2007. (See Alltel Accepts $27.5B Buyout Offer.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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