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T-Mobile loses half a million contract customers, mitigates with 227,000 new prepaid users

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In Q2 of 2012, T-Mobile's operating income grew by nearly 5 percent year over year, but the company faced a net loss of 205,000 customers over the quarter. A continued shift toward prepaid customers meant a slightly lower average revenue per user, as well.

T-Mobile store (STOCK)
T-Mobile store (STOCK)

T-Mobile USA’s Q2 2012 earnings are out, and while net income is up 3.5 percent over its Q1 figure, it's a slight decrease — 2.4 percent — from this time a year ago. The income growth is despite a net loss of 205,000 customers over the quarter; nearly four times the number it lost over the same period a year ago, and a far cry from the 187,000 new customers it added last quarter. It could have been worse but the addition of 227,000 prepaid customers partially mitigated the net loss of 557,000 customers on postpaid plans; a continuing trend for the company.

More revenue per user, just the wrong kind of user

Net customer losses were also to blame for a dip in total revenues, which fell 3.3 percent year over year. And while average revenue per user (ARPU) increased for both prepaid and contract customers, T-Mobile’s shifting mix toward prepaid meant a small decline in total ARPU — from $44.52 in Q1 of 2012 to $43.88 in the most recent quarter.

T-Mobile’s management reiterated plans for strategic investments this year in order to modernize its network, including its goal of offering LTE service in 2013. Previously, the company had cited a figure of $4 billion; $1.4 billion of which it plans to spend over the next two years. Perhaps most interesting is T-Mobile's shifting distribution strategy. The company says it's offering prepaid service at 8,700 more third-party stores this quarter, and its increasing number of partnerships with MVNOs shows it's continuing to explore new avenues for revenue growth.