The fourth-ranked US carrier is using its 3G High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) upgrades, which it describes as offering "4G speeds", as one of the levers in its turnaround plan. The carrier presently offers a 21Mbit/s HSPA+ service, which it says covered 200 million people in 100 metropolitan areas by the end of 2010.
The further speed boost will start to be rolled out in major cities this year. T-Mobile says that it hopes to have 25 major metropolitan areas switched on by mid-2011.
Combining faster mobile broadband services with a wider spread of available smartphones and lower-cost data plans is part of what T-Mobile hopes will stem its customer losses. The operator's fourth-quarter report shows a mixed picture on that front.
For the fourth quarter, T-Mobile USA posted net customer losses of 23,000, compared to net additions of 137,000 in the third quarter of 2010 and 371,000 additions in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The carrier continues to lose contract customers: Contract net customer losses were 318,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 60,000 net contract customer losses sequentially and 117,000 net contract customer losses in the fourth quarter of 2009.
A 25 percent year-on-year increase in data revenues, however, helped the operator's top line a little. For the quarter, the T-Mobile T-Mobile USA reported service revenues of US$4.69 billion compared to $4.65 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009.
T-Mobile also notes that smartphone customers now account for 24 percent of total customers, up from 21 percent in the third quarter of 2010 and 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Why this matters T-Mobile recently set out a plan to reverse its fortunes in the U.S. market at its investor day. Its quarterly reports for the rest of the year should give a clear indication of how well the strategy is going in 2011.
"Data ARPU [average revenue per user] growth rates are outperforming our main competitors as we leverage our 4G network and provide rich and compelling smartphones and data plans," notes Philipp Humm, president and CEO of T-Mobile USA in a statement. "However, high contract churn and significant contract customer losses in the fourth quarter of 2010 indicate that we still have a fair amount of work ahead of us and that any turnaround will take time."
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— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile