MVNO Ting Mobile sees subscribers spike and churn evaporate in Q2

Ting Mobile, an MVNO operated by publicly held internet company Tucows, said it gained 19,000 additional customers during the first half of 2017—a big bump that the company attributed in part to customers coming on board in the wake of rival RingPlus shutting down service.

About half of the net additions were former RingPlus subscribers, and half came from organic growth. As to the latter, the company continues to grow steadily—net organic gains came in at around 5,000 in the first quarter and 4,500 in the second quarter for a combined 9,500—a significant increase from the 6,000 additions it saw in the last half of 2016.  

RingPlus, a Sprint MVNO that exited the market in February, left around 100,000 customers at loose ends after a little more than a year in business. At issue was its business model: About 90% of its base were on free, ad-supported calling plans.

“We continue to work through the impact of the large base of customers that migrated from RingPlus in Q1,” said Tucows CEO Elliot Noss during the company’s quarterly conference call with investors, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. “This has been complicated, as we have learned that more of the Q1 adds were attributable to the onetime RingPlus closing than we originally believed. This was due to subtleties in the way people moved between the platforms as RingPlus was closing. This makes looking at the first half in aggregate the easiest way to understand progress.”

According to Noss, the MVNO, which uses the Sprint network and likely T-Mobile USA’s as well, is now sitting at 170,000 accounts and 278,000 devices. That’s up significantly from the 151,000 accounts and 245,000 devices it had two quarters ago. The second quarter also saw the lowest monthly churn from its core base in two years.

“I am especially comforted to see such healthy churn just as mobile carriers are aggressively ramping up their promotions and cable operators are rolling out their mobile offerings,” Noss said. “Remember that Ting is probably the easiest postpaid service in the industry to leave. These churn numbers seem to validate our strong belief that people would come to Ting for the savings and stay for the customer experience.”

Overall, Tucows’ net revenue for the second quarter of 2017 increased a record 78% to $84.2 million, up from $47.2 million from the second quarter of 2016. Profit increased 29% to $5.2 million year over year, and adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter of 2017 increased 50% to $10.3 million. 

Noss said he expects to see more casualties in the mold of RingPlus.

“We are well positioned as the credible, sustainable alternative to major carrier plans and major carrier experiences. Whether it is through so [sic] deals with the outgoing MVNOs themselves or campaigns directed to their customers, I'm hopeful more of these losses could be our gains.”

Article updated Aug. 10 to correct information about Ting's subscriber increases.