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US Cellular Sees Upside In Sprint, T-Mobile Merger

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US Cellular CEO Kenneth Meyers highlighted an opportunity for the operator to add customers if a proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US goes ahead, and outlined plans to significantly increase network spending in 2020.

During its Q4 2019 earnings call, Meyers noted the tie-up could spur switching activity as Sprint customers choose whether or not to make the leap to T-Mobile. He said “there’s a couple million Sprint customers in our market” noting they will have to “make a decision and we think we have the perfect solution for their wireless needs”.

He added changes the company has made to its branding, product portfolio and network during 2019 were “all aimed at positioning us well for that”.

Further upgrades to its network are on the way, with the operator revealing plans to boost capex by as much as 34 per cent in 2020 as it finishes its VoLTE rollout and ramps 5G deployments. Specifically, it estimated capex of between US$850 million and US$950 million, up from US$710 million in 2019.

Meyers explained the hefty investment in 5G will not only allow it to more efficiently handle an increase in data demand, but also open new revenue opportunities.

“It’s a long lead time, but you’ve got to have the infrastructure in place, especially in the core network. While we can always add cell sites to deliver 5G in a local market, the first starting point is inside the core which is what we’re spending on now.”

He added the level of future 5G spending will depend on whether new mid-band spectrum becomes available for deployment.

Profit of US$18 million dropped from US$21 million in Q4 2018, with revenue flat at US$1.05 billion. The operator lost 12,000 post-paid and 3,000 prepaid customers in the recent quarter.-Mobile World Live

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