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TELEPHONE & DATA SYSTEMS INC /DE/ - 10-Q - Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
[May 02, 2014]

TELEPHONE & DATA SYSTEMS INC /DE/ - 10-Q - Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

(Edgar Glimpses Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. ("TDS") is a diversified telecommunications company providing high-quality telecommunications services to approximately 4.7 million wireless customers and 1.1 million wireline and cable connections at March 31, 2014. TDS conducts substantially all of its wireless operations through its 84%­owned subsidiary, United States Cellular Corporation ("U.S. Cellular"). TDS provides wireline services, cable services and Hosted and Managed Services ("HMS"), through its wholly-owned subsidiary, TDS Telecommunications Corporation ("TDS Telecom").

The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with TDS' interim consolidated financial statements and notes included in Item 1 above, and with the description of TDS' business, its audited consolidated financial statements and Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included in TDS' Annual Report on Form 10-K ("Form 10-K") for the year ended December 31, 2013.

OVERVIEW The following is a summary of certain selected information contained in the comprehensive Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations that follows. The overview does not contain all of the information that may be important. You should carefully read the entire Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and not rely solely on the overview.

The following provides historical and forward-looking information and analysis about TDS' existing business segments. In addition, TDS' consolidated operations include corporate operations, corporate investments and the Non-Reportable Segment, which includes TDS' majority-owned printing and distribution company, Suttle-Straus, Inc. ("Suttle-Straus") and TDS' wholly-owned wireless telephone subsidiary, Airadigm Communications, Inc.

("Airadigm"), and may in the future include other possible activities or businesses that are not included within the operating results of U.S. Cellular or TDS Telecom. Accordingly, the combined operating results do not currently represent, and in the future will not represent, the only components of the consolidated operating results of TDS, which will continue to reflect such other operations, investments, segments, activities or businesses.

U.S. Cellular In its consolidated operating markets, U.S. Cellular serves approximately 4.7 million customers in 23 states. As of March 31, 2014, U.S. Cellular's average penetration rate in its consolidated operating markets was 14.8%.

U.S. Cellular operates on a customer satisfaction strategy, striving to meet or exceed customer needs by providing a comprehensive range of wireless products and services, excellent customer support, and a high-quality network.

Financial and operating highlights in the three months ended March 31, 2014 included the following: † In March 2014, U.S. Cellular sold the majority of its St. Louis area non-operating market license for $92.3 million. As a result of this sale, a gain of $75.8 million was recorded in (Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges in the Consolidated Statement of Operations.

† In February 2014, U.S. Cellular completed a license exchange in Milwaukee. As a result of this transaction, a gain of $15.7 million was recorded in (Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges in the Consolidated Statement of Operations.

† Total consolidated customers were 4,684,000 at March 31, 2014, including 4,530,000 retail customers (97% of total).

The following operating information is presented for Core Markets. As used here, Core Markets is defined as all consolidated markets in which U.S. Cellular currently conducts business and, therefore, excludes the Divestiture Markets and the NY1 & NY2 Partnerships. Core Markets as defined also includes any other income or expenses due to U.S. Cellular's direct or indirect ownership interests in other spectrum in the Divestiture Markets which was not included in the Divestiture Transaction and other retained assets from the Divestiture Markets.

See Note 5 - Acquisitions, Divestitures and Exchanges and Note 7 - Investments in Unconsolidated Entities in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

† Retail customer net losses were 80,000 in 2014 compared to net losses of 2,000 in 2013. In the postpaid category, there were net losses of 93,000 in 2014, compared to net losses of 33,000 in 2013. Postpaid defections increased due to billing system conversion issues and aggressive promotions by other carriers. Prepaid net additions were 13,000 in 2014 compared to net additions of 31,000 in 2013. The decline resulted from lower net additions in the national retail channel.

† Postpaid customers comprised approximately 92% of U.S. Cellular's retail customers as of March 31, 2014. The postpaid churn rate was 2.3% in 2014 compared to 1.6% in 2013. Billing system conversion issues and aggressive competitive offerings contributed to the increase in postpaid churn. The prepaid churn rate was 6.9% in 2014 compared to 5.6% in 2013.

22 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents † Billed average revenue per user ("ARPU") increased to $53.93 in 2014 from $50.93 in 2013 reflecting an increase in postpaid ARPU due to increases in smartphone adoption and corresponding revenues from data products and services.

Service revenue ARPU increased to $60.19 in 2014 from $57.14 in 2013 due primarily to an increase in postpaid ARPU, offset by decreases in inbound roaming revenue and prepaid ARPU.

† Postpaid customers on smartphone service plans increased to 53% as of March 31, 2014 compared to 43% as of March 31, 2013. In addition, smartphones represented 73% of all devices sold in 2014 compared to 62% in 2013.

The following financial information is presented for U.S. Cellular consolidated results: † Retail service revenues of $764.8 million decreased $119.2 million, or 13%, in 2014 due to a decrease of 1,036,000 in the average number of customers (including approximately 750,000 due to the reductions caused by the Divestiture Transaction and NY1 & NY2 Deconsolidation) partially offset by an increase in billed ARPU.

† Total additions to Property, plant and equipment were $89.6 million, including expenditures to deploy fourth generation Long-term Evolution ("4G LTE") equipment, construct cell sites, increase capacity in existing cell sites and switches, outfit new and remodel existing retail stores, and enhance billing and other customer management related systems and platforms. Total cell sites in service decreased 23% year-over-year to 6,165 primarily as a result of the NY1 & NY2 Deconsolidation and the deactivation of certain cell sites in the Divestiture Markets.

† Operating income increased $6.4 million, to $7.8 million in 2014.

Excluding the (gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, operating income decreased due to lower service revenues and higher equipment subsidies exceeding reductions in operating expenses.

U.S. Cellular anticipates that its future results may be affected by the following factors: † Effects of industry competition on service and equipment pricing; † U.S. Cellular completed the migration of its customers to a new Billing and Operational Support System ("B/OSS") in the third quarter of 2013.

Intermittent system outages and delayed system response times negatively impacted customer service and sales operations at certain times. System enhancements continue to be implemented to address these issues, and customer service and sales operations response times have improved. However, any future operational problems associated with the new billing system could have adverse effects on U.S. Cellular's business (in areas such as overall customer satisfaction, customer attrition, uncollectible accounts receivable, gross customer additions, or operating expenses). All of these factors could have a material adverse effect on U.S. Cellular's results of operations or cash flows; † Impacts of selling Apple iPhone products; † Impacts of selling devices under retail installment contracts; † Relative ability to attract and retain customers in a competitive marketplace in a cost effective manner; † Expanded distribution of products and services in third-party national retailers; † Potential increases in prepaid customers, who generally generate lower ARPU and higher churn, as a percentage of U.S. Cellular's customer base in response to changes in customer preferences and industry dynamics; † The nature and rate of growth in the wireless industry, requiring U.S.

Cellular to grow revenues primarily from selling additional products and services to its existing customers, increasing the number of multi-device users among its existing customers, increasing data products and services and attracting wireless customers switching from other wireless carriers; † Continued growth in revenues and costs related to data products and services and declines in revenues from voice services; † Rapid growth in the demand for new data devices and services which may result in increased cost of equipment sold and other operating expenses and the need for additional investment in network capacity and enhancements; † Further consolidation among carriers in the wireless industry, which could result in increased competition for customers and/or cause roaming revenues to decline; 23 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents † Uncertainty related to various rulemaking proceedings underway at the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"); † The ability to negotiate satisfactory 4G LTE data roaming agreements with other wireless operators.

See "Results of Operations-U.S. Cellular." TDS Telecom The Wireline and Cable segments seek to be the preferred telecommunications solutions providers in their chosen markets serving both residential and commercial customers by developing and delivering high-quality products through a superior network that meet or exceed customers' needs and to outperform the competition by maintaining superior customer service. TDS Telecom provides broadband, voice, and video services to residential customers through value-added bundling of products. The commercial focus is to provide advanced IP-based voice and data services to small to medium sized businesses. The HMS segment provides colocation, dedicated hosting, hosted application management, cloud computing services and planning, engineering, procurement, installation, sales and management of Information Technology ("IT") infrastructure hardware solutions.

On October 4, 2013, TDS acquired 100% of the outstanding shares of MSN Communications, Inc. ("MSN") for $43.6 million in cash. The operations of MSN are included in the HMS segment. On August 1, 2013, TDS Telecom acquired substantially all of the assets of Baja Broadband, LLC ("Baja") for $264.1 million in cash. The operations of Baja comprise the Cable segment. These acquisitions impact the comparability of TDS Telecom's operating results.

On May 1, 2014, TDS entered into an agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of a group of companies operating as BendBroadband, headquartered in Bend, Oregon for $261 million in cash, subject to working capital and other adjustments. BendBroadband is a full-service communications company, offering an extensive range of broadband, fiber connectivity, cable television and telephone services for commercial and residential customers in Central Oregon.

The agreement also includes a Tier III data center providing colocation and managed services and a cable advertising and broadcast business. At December 31, 2013, BendBroadband passed approximately 79,000 homes and businesses, with approximately 36,000 video subscribers, 41,000 high-speed broadband subscribers and 22,000 digital voice subscribers. BendBroadband generated annual revenues of $70 million in 2013. The transaction is subject to governmental regulatory approvals, compliance with the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and other conditions.

Subject to approvals, the transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2014.

TDS Telecom's financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2014 included the following: † Operating revenues increased $45.4 million or 21% to $262.4 million in 2014. The increase was due primarily to $47.1 million from acquisitions of Baja and MSN, partially offset by a $4.1 million decrease in Wireline Wholesale revenues.

† Operating expenses increased $35.3 million or 17% to $244.4 million in 2014 due primarily to $46.5 million from acquisitions, partially offset by a $14.6 million decrease in Wireline expenses.

TDS anticipates that TDS Telecom's future results will be affected by the following factors: † Continued increases in competition from wireless and other wireline providers, cable providers, and technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP"), DOCSIS 3.0 and fourth-generation ("4G") mobile technology; † Continued increases in consumer data usage and demand for high-speed data services; † Continued declines in Wireline voice connections; † Continued focus on customer retention programs, including discounting for "triple-play" bundles including voice, broadband and video or satellite video; † The expansion of Internet Protocol television ("IPTV") into additional market areas; † Continued growth in hosted and managed services which may result in the need for additional investment in data centers; † Continued focus on cost-reduction initiatives through product and service cost improvements and process efficiencies; † The Federal government's disbursement of Broadband Stimulus Funds to bring broadband to rural customers; 24 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents † The National Broadband Plan and other rulemaking by the FCC, including uncertainty related to future funding from the Universal Service Fund ("USF"), broadband requirements, intercarrier compensation and changes in access reform; † Impacts of the Baja and MSN transactions, including, but not limited to, the ability to successfully integrate and operate these businesses and the financial impacts of such transactions; † Impacts of the BendBroadband transaction, including, but not limited to, the ability to obtain regulatory approval, successfully complete the transaction, integrate and operate the businesses of BendBroadband, and the financial impacts of such transaction, including the effects on TDS' capital resources and liquidity as a result of the use of $261 million in cash for the purchase price; and † Potential acquisitions or divestitures by TDS and/or TDS Telecom of wireline, cable, HMS or other businesses.

See "Results of Operations-TDS Telecom." Pro Forma Financial Information Refer to TDS' Form 8-K filed on May 3, 2013 for pro forma financial information related to the Divestiture Transaction and the NY1 & NY2 Deconsolidation for the three months ended March 31, 2013, as if the transactions had occurred at the beginning of the period.

REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS FCC Interoperability Order On October 25, 2013, the FCC adopted a Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification confirming a voluntary industry agreement on interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz spectrum band. The FCC's Report and Order laid out a roadmap for the voluntary commitments of AT&T and DISH Network Corporation ("DISH") to become fully binding. The FCC implemented the AT&T commitments in an Order adopted in the first quarter of 2014 that modified AT&T's Lower 700 MHz licenses. Pursuant to these commitments, AT&T will begin incorporating changes in its network and devices that will foster interoperability across all paired spectrum blocks in the Lower 700 MHz Band and support LTE roaming on AT&T networks for carriers with compatible Band 12 devices, consistent with the FCC's rules on roaming. AT&T will be implementing the foregoing changes in phases starting with network software enhancement taking place possibly through the third quarter of 2015 with the AT&T Band 12 device roll-out to follow. In addition, the FCC has adopted changes in its technical rules for certain unpaired spectrum licensed to AT&T and DISH in the Lower 700 MHz band to enhance prospects for Lower 700 MHz interoperability. AT&T's network and devices currently interoperate across only two of the three paired blocks in the Lower 700 MHz band. U.S. Cellular's LTE deployment, carried out in conjunction with its partner, King Street Wireless, utilizes spectrum in all three of these blocks and, consequently, was not interoperable with the AT&T configuration.

U.S. Cellular believes that the FCC action will broaden the ecosystem of devices available to U.S. Cellular's customers over time.

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