Summary:

T-Mobile USA reported a net gain of 126,000 subscribers in the most recent quarter, marginally increasing its total subscriber base to 33.7 million customers, while data revenue per customer grew as well. Without an iPhone, the carrier is focused on value plans and fast mobile broadband.

Cole Brodman - CMO and EVP, T-Mobile USA at Mobilize 2011

Cole Brodman - CMO and EVP, T-Mobile USA at Mobilize 2011T-Mobile USA reported a net gain of 126,000 subscribers in the most recent quarter, marginally increasing its total subscriber base to 33.7 million customers. The No. 4 U.S. carrier attributes the small boost — a turnaround from the prior quarter’s loss of 50,000 customers — to new value plans and unlimited monthly 4G offerings to prepaid customers. T-Mobile also saw a 40 percent jump in the total number of smartphone customers on its network: There are 10.1 million 3G/4G smartphones in use, up from 7.2 million a year ago.

The focus on affordable plan mixes and unlimited offerings to prepaid customers has helped, but now that all three major U.S. carriers have the iPhone, I wonder if T-Mobile’s churn rate — the rate at which it sheds customers — will rise a little more next quarter. Even before Sprint started selling the iPhone, T-Mobile’s churn has been on the rise: It was 3.5 percent in the most recent quarter for both prepaid and postpaid customers, compared with 3.3 percent the quarter before.

Without an Apple iPhone to sell customers, T-Mobile continues to invest efforts in plan differentiation and its 42 Mbps mobile broadband network. Of course, that hasn’t stopped more than a million T-Mobile customers from reportedly using an iPhone on the network, even without support for 3G data. It’s another example of the change I pointed out a few months back: Some customers are choosing hardware first and the supporting carrier network second.

T-Mobile’s smartphones — mainly Google Android devices — and the data plans required to use them are helping to raise the average revenue per user (ARPU) for data services, however. ARPU solely for data revenues rose to $14, a boost from $13.60 in the prior quarter and $12.40 in the year-ago quarter. This growth is important as voice revenues erode over time, due to customers using smartphones more for data and apps and less for traditional voice calls.

Comments have been disabled for this post