Cingular Adds Subscribers

The BellSouth-SBC venture says data revenue rises.
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Cingular added 1.4 million subscribers and posted a 5% revenue gain during the first quarter, though its average revenue per user continued to slip.

The nation's largest cell-phone service, with more than 50 million users, said churn, or monthly customer defections, improved by 20 basis points sequentially to 2.2%. The company's operating income margin before depreciation and amortization rose to 25%, excluding merger costs. Cingular is digesting its acquisition of onetime rival AT&T Wireless, which was hit hard by customer service shortfalls before falling into Cingular's arms last year.

"Our key indicators of progress continue to point in the right direction, and that's good news," said CEO Stan Sigman. "Especially gratifying is that millions of customers are choosing Cingular and choosing to stay with Cingular. In a fiercely competitive industry like wireless, such choices are a meaningful indicator of genuine customer satisfaction."

Cingular said revenue rose to $8.2 billion from pro forma revenue of $7.8 billion during the year-ago first quarter. Operating income was $114 million.

The company, a joint venture of

BellSouth

(BLS)

and

SBC

(SBC)

, said ARPU in the first quarter dropped 3.3% from a year ago to $49.59. Cingular said the decline slowed from the previous period, though, which showed a 5.5% year-over-year drop. The company said a "substantial increase in data revenues" helped on that front.