Mobile service provider US Cellular on Friday posted its financial results for the first quarter of 2017, revealing an operating revenue of $936 million — a three-percent decline compared to Q1 2016 — and a reduced handset churn rate that now amounts to just over one percent. The fifth largest wireless carrier in the United States fell short of analyst expectations in terms of operating revenue as most industry watchers believed that the company's performance will drop by approximately 1.5 percentage points, and not double that amount, but not all of the results posted by the Chicago, Illinois-based company were disappointing.
US Cellular's earnings per share amounted to 18 cents during the first quarter of the year, which is significantly more than 11 cents per share that analysts expected. Likewise, the company's phone churn rate was extremely low, with the firm attributing that achievement to its new unlimited data plan that it introduced in February, thus mimicking AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Regardless, US Cellular's postpaid net losses amounted to 27,000 over the course of the three-month period ending March 31, with the firm losing around 28,000 phone customers and adding just 1,000 of other connected devices, the earnings report revealed. Likewise, the company lost 4,000 prepaid customers in Q1 2017, though it expects that trend will be reversed in the current period thanks to its new unlimited data plan that managed to prevent further losses during the recently ended quarter.
The company's President Ken Meyers admitted that the losses posted in Q1 2017 could have been further reduced had the firm reacted to the rise of unlimited data plans sooner, but has ultimately decided to wait for Verizon before launching such an offering itself. Despite being somewhat late to the unlimited data race, US Cellular's new plan was reportedly received by consumers in a positive manner, with approximately 11 percent of all of the firm's postpaid lines transitioning to it within the first five weeks of its launch, Meyers revealed. Following the release of the company's mixed financial results, its shares rose by more than eight percent when the market closed on Friday. While it remains to be seen whether US Cellular manages to maintain that value, this latest turn of events indicates that the wireless carrier is now even more unlikely to sell itself than it previously was.