U.S. Cellular posted a net loss of $200.1 million in the fourth quarter compared with the prior-year fourth quarter's net income of $29.2 million.
In a conference call with analysts, U.S. Cellular executives acknowledged the highly competitive nature of the business and the economic situation but said promotions in December helped boost fourth-quarter additions. The company rolled out its Calling All Communities contest, as well as a promotion that involved a $50 service credit for certain activations in December.
Net retail postpaid additions tallied 41,000 in the fourth quarter, and data revenues represented 14.5 percent of service revenues. For the full year 2008, postpaid churn was at 1.5 percent.
The carrier is seeing an uptick in the sale of smartphones, which carry higher ARPU due to the data packages. U.S. Cellular plans to cover more than 60 percent of its cell sites with EV-DO by the end of this year. It has not committed to moving to LTE but executives indicated that's something they're likely to look at more in the 2010 timeframe.
About 95 percent of U.S. Cellular's retail customer base is postpaid, and it hasn't seen any major impact from Boost Mobile's $50 prepaid offering in its markets.