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As it rolls out LTE (and data tiers), Verizon growth accelerates, churn declines


Verizon announced second-quarter results today that, even without its hoped-for summertime iPhone update, epitomized a fast-moving mobile industry poised for still more staggering growth.

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The nation`s largest carrier (a distinction it will give up, should AT&T`s purchase of T-Mobile be approved) announced second-quarter results that included:

• net income of $1.61 billion on operating revenues of $27.5 billion

• the addition of 1.3 million wireless subscribers, bringing its customer base to 106.3 million;

• 2.3 million iPhone activations (notably, these were iPhone 4 handsets; while AT&T activated 3.6 million iPhones during the same period (CP: AT&T calmly and steadily growing, as it awaits LTE and T-Mobile approval) a good number were the iPhone 3GS units it now sells for $50);

• a long-time low churn rate of just 0.89% (AT&T`s Q2 churn rose to 1.43%); and

• a 4G LTE network currently covering 102 markets and more than 160 million people.

And still, said current COO, and soon-to-be CEO, Lowell McAdams during the earnings call, citing what he noted was a company mantra for continuing to drive business forward: "There`s always a higher gear."

After a quarter delay, the final quarter should see the arrival of the Apple iPhone 5, which should certainly kick things up a notch. While adding that any questions about when the device will arrive should be directed at Apple, McAdams noted, "I think we`re going to have the best lineup of fourth-quarter devices we`ve ever seen."

By year`s end, Verizon plans to have its 4G LTE service expanded into more than 175 markets, covering more than 185 million people. This has it poised to take further advantage of upticks in tablet use and profitable bandwidth-intensive video, particularly given its move back to tiered data pricing. Other anticipated profit increases are expected to come thanks to its Terremark acquisition (CP: Verizon to keep Terremark name for data center business).

"What we`re seeing is a lot of enterprise customers coming to us and asking what we can offer to cut their [IT] costs," said CFO Fran Shammo.

Verizon`s answer has been a mobile strategy based on the cloud. While this raises questions about security, "We think we`re second-to-none, regarding our security solutions for the enterprise," Shammo added.

Sprint is the only remaining big-four carrier to still offer fully unlimited data plans (which Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has hinted may eventually come to an end). McAdams seemed un-phased by this, and again epitomizing a company leading the way into a new frontier, he noted:

"Tiered pricing is like gravity. The industry has to get there eventually, because there just isn`t unlimited spectrum."

When you look at the devices being offered and the video supported, the move to tiered pricing, he continued, "is inevitable. ... There may be some that hold out longer, and I wouldn`t be surprised if some carriers went back to it for a limited time [as a way to help margins] but over time [tiered pricing] is inevitable."

Pricing, he suggested, wasn`t the sole explanation for the 2.2 .million connections Verizon added during the quarter.

"Our strength," McAdams concluded, "has always been to offer the best network and the best customer service."


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