BCE Inc., owner of Bell Mobility and Bell Media increased its Q1 profits by 14% over the previous year to $574 million. Much of the growth was due to Bell Mobility’s growth and the further proliferation of smartphones into the Canadian market.
Bell’s total number of wireless clients hit 7,406,155, a 2.2% uptick from last quarter. Total company revenue for BCE was $4.33 billion, $1.32 billion of which was attributed to the wireless segment. Not only did wireless service margin increase to 42.9% but smartphones finally overtook feature phones as the majority of wireless subscribers at 52%. This is an increase of 2.6% and 18% respectively.
Total data usage skyrocketed, attributed to vertically-integrated content services like Mobile TV and the aforementioned increase in smartphone subscribers. Blended ARPU, that all-important metric for how much each customer earns the company, increased 4.2% to $53.84 per month, a $2.16 increase over Q1 2011. Though voice ARPU was down, it was offset and superseded by improved data ARPU.
Net postpaid customers increased by 62,576 on 293,572 gross activations. Both figures are down slightly over the year before, and combined with a sharp downtick in prepaid customers the net activation figures were slightly lower. However Bell was pleased with the results based on a desire for “focus on profitable postpaid subscriber growth and increasing our mix of higher-value customers.” They also acknowledged that prepaid subscribers were down due to “our emphasis on postpaid acquisitions as well as competitive acquisition offers from the newer wireless entrants for lower-ARPU subscribers.*
Bell’s important metrics — blended ARPU, wireless EBITDA — are all increasing to match Rogers in some ways. Bell’s blended ARPU rose in Q1 to $53.84; Rogers’ fell to $57.26.