UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549


FORM 10-K

(Mark One)

 

 

x

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

 

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006

 

OR

o

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

Commission file number 001-14157


TELEPHONE AND DATA SYSTEMS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

Delaware.

 

36-2669023

(State or other jurisdiction

 

(IRS Employer Identification No.)

of incorporation or organization)

 

 

 

30 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois

 

60602 .

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip code)

 

Registrant’s Telephone Number: (312) 630-1900

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Shares, $.01 par value

 

American Stock Exchange

Special Common Shares, $.01 par value

 

American Stock Exchange

7.60% Series A Notes due 2041

 

New York Stock Exchange

6.625% Senior Notes due 2045

 

New York Stock Exchange

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

Yes  o

 

No  x

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act.

Yes  o

 

No  x

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

Yes  x

 

No  o

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer.  See definition of “accelerated filer and large accelerated filer” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

Large accelerated filer  x

Accelerated filer  o

 

Non-accelerated filer  o

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

Yes  o

No  x

 

As of June 30, 2006, the aggregate market values of the registrant’s Common Shares, Series A Common Shares, Special Common Shares and Preferred Shares held by non-affiliates were approximately $1.7 billion, $11.6 million, $1.0 billion and $5.4 million, respectively. For purposes hereof, it was assumed that each director, executive officer and holder of 10% or more of the voting power of TDS and U.S. Cellular is an affiliate. The June 30, 2006 closing price of the Common Shares was $41.40 and the Special Common Shares was $38.90, as reported by the American Stock Exchange. Because no market exists for the Series A Common Shares and Preferred Shares, the registrant has assumed for purposes hereof that (i) each Series A Common Share has a market value equal to one Common Share because the Series A Common Shares were initially issued by the registrant in exchange for Common Shares on a one-for-one basis and are convertible on a share-for-share basis into Common Shares, (ii) each nonconvertible Preferred Share has a market value of $100 because each of such shares had a stated value of $100 when issued, and (iii) each convertible Preferred Share has a value equal to the value of the number of Common Shares (at $41.40 per share) and of Special Common Shares (at $38.90 per share) into which it was convertible on June 30, 2006.

The number of shares outstanding of each of the registrant’s classes of common stock, as of April 30, 2007, is 51,937,620 Common Shares, $.01 par value, 58,402,073 Special Common Shares, $.01 par value and 6,444,364 Series A Common Shares, $.01 par value.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Those sections or portions of the registrant’s 2006 Annual Report to Shareholders, filed as Exhibit 13 hereto, and of the registrant’s Notice of Annual Meeting of Shareholders and Proxy Statement for its 2007 Annual Meeting of Shareholders filed as Exhibit 99.1 hereto, described in the cross reference sheet and table of contents attached hereto are incorporated by reference into Parts II and III of this report.

 




 

EXPLANATORY NOTE

TDS and its audit committee concluded on April 20, 2007, that TDS would restate its financial statements and financial information for the years ended December 31, 2005 and 2004, including quarterly information for 2006 and 2005, and certain selected financial data for 2003 and 2002.  The restatements are being reflected in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2006.  For a description of this restatement, see note 1, “Restatement” section of Summary of Significant Accounting Policies  in the audited consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 




 

CROSS REFERENCE SHEET
AND
TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Page Number
or
Reference (1)

Part I

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

 

Business

3

 

Item 1A.

 

Risk Factors

47

 

Item 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

58

 

Item 2.

 

Properties

58

 

Item 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

58

 

Item 4.

 

Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders

58

 

Part II

 

 

 

 

 Item 5.

 

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

59

(2)

 Item 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

59

(3)

 Item 7.

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

59

(4)

 Item 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

59

(5)

 Item 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

59

(6)

 Item 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

59

 

 Item 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

60

 

 Item 9B.

 

Other Information

64

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part III

 

 

 

 

 Item 10.

 

Directors and Executive Officers of the Registrant

65

(7)

 Item 11.

 

Executive Compensation

65

(8)

 Item 12.

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

65

(9)

 Item 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions

65

(10)

 Item 14.

 

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

65

(11)

 

 

 

 

 

Part IV

 

 

 

 

 Item 15.

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

66

 


(1)                       Parenthetical references are to information incorporated by reference from Exhibit 13 hereto, which includes portions of the registrant’s Annual Report to Shareholders for the year ended December 31, 2006 (“Annual Report”) and from Exhibit 99.1 hereto, which includes certain sections expected to be included in the registrant’s Notice of Annual Meeting of Shareholders and Proxy Statement for its 2007 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (“Proxy Statement”).

(2)                       Annual Report sections entitled “TDS Stock and Dividend Information” and “Market Price per Common Share by Quarter.”

(3)                       Annual Report section entitled “Selected Consolidated Financial Data.”

(4)                       Annual Report section entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

(5)                       Annual Report section entitled “Market Risk.”

(6)                       Annual Report sections entitled “Consolidated Statements of Operations,” “Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows,” “Consolidated Balance Sheets,” “Consolidated Statements of Common Stockholders’ Equity,” “Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements,” “Consolidated Quarterly Information (Unaudited),” “Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting” and “Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm.”

(7)                       Proxy Statement sections entitled “Election of Directors,” “Corporate Governance,” “Executive Officers” and “Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance.”

(8)                       Proxy Statement section entitled “Executive and Director Compensation.”

(9)                       Proxy Statement sections entitled “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management “ and “Securities Authorized for Issuance under Equity Compensation Plans.”

(10)                 Proxy Statement sections entitled “Corporate Governance,” and “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions.”

(11)                 Proxy Statement section entitled “Fees Paid to Principal Accountants.”

 




Telephone and Data Systems, Inc.
30 NORTH LASALLE STREET, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60602
TELEPHONE (312) 630-1900

 


PART I


 

Item 1.  Business

Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (“TDS”), is a diversified telecommunications service company with wireless telephone and wireline telephone operations. At December 31, 2006, TDS served approximately 7.0 million customers in 36 states, including 5,815,000 wireless telephone customers and 1,213,500 wireline telephone equivalent access lines. United States Cellular Corporation (“U.S. Cellular”) provided approximately 80% of TDS’s consolidated revenues and approximately 70% of consolidated operating income in 2006. TDS Telecom provided approximately 20% of consolidated revenues and approximately 30% of consolidated operating income in 2006. Suttle Straus provided less than 1% of consolidated revenues and operating income in 2006. TDS’s business strategy is to expand its existing operations through internal growth and acquisitions and to explore and develop other telecommunications businesses that management believes will utilize TDS expertise in customer focused telecommunications services.

TDS’s wireless operations are conducted through U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries. U.S. Cellular provides wireless telephone service to 5,815,000 customers through the operations of 201 majority-owned (“consolidated”) wireless licenses throughout the United States. Since 1985, when it began providing cellular service in Knoxville, Tennessee and Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. Cellular has expanded its wireless networks and customer service operations to cover six market areas in 26 states as of December 31, 2006. Through a 2003 exchange transaction and Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Auction 58 (as discussed below), U.S. Cellular has rights to wireless licenses covering territories in two additional states and has the rights to commence service in those licensed areas in the future. The wireless licenses that U.S. Cellular currently includes in its consolidated operations cover a total population of more than one million in each market area, including its contiguous Midwest and Southwest market areas, which cover a total population of more than 38 million, and one other market area which covers a total population of more than nine million.

TDS conducts its wireline telephone operations through its wholly owned subsidiary, TDS Telecommunications Corporation (“TDS Telecom”). At December 31, 2006, TDS Telecom served 1,213,500 equivalent access lines in 30 states through its incumbent local exchange carrier and competitive local exchange carrier telephone companies. An equivalent access line is derived by converting a high capacity data line to an estimated equivalent, in terms of capacity, number of switched access lines. An incumbent local exchange carrier is an independent local telephone company that formerly had the exclusive right and responsibility to provide local transmission and switching services in its designated service territory. TDS Telecom’s strategy is to expand by offering additional lines of telecommunications products and services to existing customers and is exploring expansion of its geographic footprint by offering both existing and new products and services to new customers. TDS Telecom may also continue to make opportunistic acquisitions of operating telephone companies and related communications providers.  At December 31, 2006, TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers served 757,300 equivalent access lines in 28 states.  TDS Telecom also offers services as a competitive local exchange carrier in certain mid-sized cities which are near existing TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carrier markets. Competitive local exchange carrier is a term that depicts companies that enter the operating areas of incumbent local exchange telephone companies to offer local exchange and other telephone services. At December 31, 2006, TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carriers served 456,200 equivalent access lines in five states.

TDS conducts printing and distribution services through its 80%-owned subsidiary, Suttle Straus.

TDS was incorporated in 1968 and changed its corporate domicile from Iowa to Delaware in 1998. TDS executive offices are located at 30 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602. Its telephone number is 312-630-1900.  The Common Shares of TDS are listed on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol “TDS.” The Special Common Shares of TDS are listed on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol “TDS.S.” TDS’s 7.60% Series A Notes are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “TDA.” TDS’s 6.625% Senior Notes are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “TDI.”

3




Available Information

TDS’s website is http://www.teldta.com. Anyone may access, free of charge, through the Investor Relations portion of the website the TDS annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to such reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, as soon as reasonably practical after such material is electronically filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The public may read and copy any materials TDS files with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F. Street, NE, Washington D.C. 20549.  The public may obtain information on the operation of the Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-732-0330. The public may also view electronic filings of TDS by accessing SEC filings at http://www.sec.gov.

Possible U.S. Cellular Transaction

On a Current Report on Form 8-K dated February 17, 2005, TDS disclosed that it may possibly take action at some time in the future to offer and issue TDS Special Common Shares in exchange for all of the Common Shares of U.S. Cellular which are not owned by TDS (a “Possible U.S. Cellular Transaction”).

On March 5, 2007, TDS announced that it has terminated activity with respect to a Possible U.S. Cellular Transaction.

Although TDS has terminated activity with respect to a Possible U.S. Cellular Transaction at this time, TDS reserves the right to recommence activity with respect to a Possible U.S. Cellular Transaction at any time in the future. TDS may also acquire at any time in the future the Common Shares of U.S. Cellular through open market, private purchases or otherwise, or take other action to acquire some or all of the shares of U.S. Cellular not owned by TDS, although it has no present plans to do so.

4




U.S. Cellular Operations

TDS’s wireless operations are conducted through U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries. U.S. Cellular provides wireless telephone service to approximately 5,815,000 customers through the operations of 201 majority-owned (“consolidated”) wireless licenses throughout the United States. Since 1985, when it began providing wireless service in Knoxville, Tennessee and Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. Cellular has expanded its wireless networks and customer service operations to cover six market areas in 26 states as of December 31, 2006. Through a 2003 exchange transaction and Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Auction 58 (as discussed below), U.S. Cellular owns, directly and indirectly, rights to wireless licenses covering territories in two additional states and has the rights to commence service in those licensed areas in the future. The wireless licenses that U.S. Cellular currently includes in its consolidated operations cover a total population of more than one million in each market, and a total population of 55.5 million overall. The contiguous Midwest and Southwest market areas cover a total population of more than 38 million, and the Mid-Atlantic market area covers a total population of more than nine million.

U.S. Cellular’s ownership interests in wireless licenses include both consolidated and investment interests in licenses covering 159 cellular metropolitan statistical areas (as designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and used by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) in designating metropolitan cellular market areas) or rural service areas (as used by the FCC in designating non-metropolitan statistical area cellular market areas) (“cellular licenses”) and 60 personal communications service basic trading areas (designations used by the FCC in dividing the United States into personal communications service market areas). Of those interests, U.S. Cellular owns controlling interests in 141 cellular licenses and each of the 60 personal communications service basic trading areas. As of December 31, 2006, U.S. Cellular also owned rights to acquire controlling interests in 17 additional personal communications service licenses through an acquisition agreement with AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. (“AT&T Wireless”), now a subsidiary of Cingular Wireless LLC, which is now a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. (formerly SBC Communications, Inc.).

U.S. Cellular manages the operations of all but two of the licenses in which it owns a controlling interest; U.S. Cellular has contracted with another wireless operator to manage the operations of these other two licensees. U.S. Cellular includes the operations of each of these two licenses in its consolidated results of operations. U.S. Cellular also manages the operations of three additional licenses in which it does not own a controlling interest, through an agreement with the controlling interest holder or holders. U.S. Cellular accounts for its interests in each of these three licenses using the equity method of accounting.

The following table summarizes the status of U.S. Cellular’s interests in wireless markets at December 31, 2006. Personal communications service markets are designated as “PCS.”

 

 

Total

 

Cellular

 

PCS

 

Consolidated markets(1)

 

201

 

141

 

60

 

Consolidated markets to be acquired pursuant to existing agreements(2)

 

17

 

 

17

 

Minority interests accounted for using equity method(3)

 

12

 

12

 

 

Minority interests accounted for using cost method(4)

 

5

 

5

 

 

Total markets to be owned after completion of pending transactions(5)

 

235

 

158

 

77

 


(1)          U.S. Cellular owns a controlling interest in each of the 141 cellular markets and 49 personal communications service “PCS” markets it included in its consolidated markets at December 31, 2006. The remaining 11 consolidated PCS markets represent 11 licenses acquired through Carroll Wireless, L.P. (“Carroll Wireless”). U.S. Cellular consolidates Carroll Wireless and Carroll PCS, Inc., the general partner of Carroll Wireless, for financial statement purposes, pursuant to the guidelines of FASB Interpretation No. 46 (revised December 2003), Consolidation of Variable Interest Entities— an interpretation of ARB No. 51 (“FIN 46(R)”), as U.S. Cellular anticipates benefiting from or absorbing a majority of Carroll Wireless’ expected gains or losses.

(2)          U.S. Cellular owns rights to acquire majority interests in 17 additional personal communications service licenses, resulting from an exchange transaction with AT&T Wireless which closed in August 2003. U.S. Cellular has up to five years from the transaction closing date to exercise its rights to acquire 21 licenses from AT&T Wireless. Four of the 21 licenses are in markets where U.S. Cellular currently owns personal communications service spectrum and, therefore, are not included in the number of consolidated markets to be acquired. Only the incremental markets are included in the number of consolidated markets to be acquired to avoid duplicate reporting of overlapping markets. The rights to acquire licenses from AT&T Wireless expire on August 1, 2008.

(3)          Represents cellular licenses in which U.S. Cellular owns an interest that is not a controlling financial interest and which are accounted for using the equity method. U.S. Cellular’s investments in these licenses are included in Investment in unconsolidated entities in its Consolidated Balance Sheets and its proportionate share of the net income of these licenses is included in Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities in its Consolidated Statements of Operations.

(4)          Represents cellular licenses in which U.S. Cellular owns an interest that is not a controlling financial interest and which are accounted for using the cost method. U.S. Cellular’s investments in these licenses are included in Investment in unconsolidated entities in its Consolidated Balance Sheets.

(5)          Total markets to be owned after completion of pending transactions does not include the 17 licenses for which Barat Wireless was the successful bidder in Auction 66, which ended on September 18, 2006. On April 30, 2007, the FCC granted Barat Wireless’ applications with respect to the 17 licenses for which it was the winning bidder. See “Wireless Systems Development — FCC Auctions” below for additional information related to Barat Wireless.

5




Some of the territory covered by the personal communications service licenses U.S. Cellular operates overlaps with territory covered by the cellular licenses it operates. For the purpose of tracking population counts in order to calculate market penetration, when U.S. Cellular acquires a licensed area that overlaps a licensed area it already owns, it does not duplicate the population counts for any overlapping licensed area. Only non-overlapping, incremental population counts are added to the reported amount of total population in the case of an acquisition of a licensed area that overlaps a previously owned licensed area. The incremental population counts that are added in such event are referred to throughout this Form 10-K as “incremental” population measurements. Amounts reported in this Form 10-K as “total market population” do not duplicate any population counts in the case of any overlapping licensed areas U.S. Cellular owns.

U.S. Cellular owns interests in consolidated wireless licenses which cover a total population of 55.5 million as of December 31, 2006. U.S. Cellular also owns investment interests in wireless licenses which represent 1.5 million population equivalents as of that date. “Population equivalents” represent the population of a wireless licensed area, based on 2005 Claritas estimates, multiplied by the percentage interest that U.S. Cellular owns in an entity licensed to operate such wireless license.

U.S. Cellular believes that it is the sixth largest wireless operating company in the United States at December 31, 2006, based on internally prepared calculations of the aggregate number of customers in its consolidated markets compared to the number of customers disclosed by other wireless companies in their publicly released information. U.S. Cellular’s business development strategy is to operate controlling interests in wireless licenses in areas adjacent to or in proximity to its other wireless licenses, thereby building contiguous operating market areas. U.S. Cellular anticipates that grouping its operations into market areas will continue to provide it with certain economies in its capital and operating costs. From time to time, U.S. Cellular has divested outright or included in exchanges for other wireless interests certain consolidated and investment interests which are considered less essential to its operating strategy.

Wireless systems in U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets served approximately 5,815,000 customers at December 31, 2006, and contained 5,925 cell sites. The average penetration rate in U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets, as calculated by dividing the number of U.S. Cellular customers by the total population in such markets, was 10.5% at December 31, 2006, and the number of customers who discontinued service (the “churn rate”) in these markets averaged 1.8% per month for the twelve months ended December 31, 2006.

Wireless Telephone Operations

The Wireless Telephone Industry.   Wireless telephone technology provides high-quality, high-capacity communications services to hand-held portable, in-vehicle and fixed location wireless telephones, using radio spectrum licensed by the FCC. Wireless telephone systems are designed for maximum mobility of the customer. Access is provided through system interconnections to local, regional, national and world-wide telecommunications networks. Wireless telephone systems also offer a full range of services, similar to those widely offered by conventional (“landline”) telephone companies. Data transmission capabilities offered by wireless telephone systems may be at slower speeds than those offered by landline telephone or other data service providers.

Wireless telephone systems divide each service area into smaller geographic areas or “cells.” Each cell is served by radio transmitters and receivers which operate on discrete radio frequencies licensed by the FCC. All of the cells in a system are connected to a computer-controlled mobile telephone switching office. Each mobile telephone switching office is connected to the landline telephone network and potentially other mobile telephone switching offices. Each conversation on a wireless phone involves a transmission over a specific set of radio frequencies from the wireless phone to a transmitter/receiver at a cell site. The transmission is forwarded from the cell site to the mobile telephone switching office and from there may be forwarded to the landline telephone network or to another wireless phone to complete the call. As the wireless telephone call moves from one cell to another, the mobile telephone switching office monitors radio signal strength and transfers the call from one cell to the next. This transfer is not noticeable to either party on the wireless telephone call.

The FCC currently grants two licenses to provide cellular telephone service in each cellular licensed area. Multiple licenses have been granted in each personal communications service licensed area, and these licensed areas overlap with cellular licensed areas. As a result, personal communications service license holders can and do compete with cellular license holders for customers. In addition, specialized mobile radio systems operators such as Sprint Nextel Corporation are providing wireless services similar to those offered by U.S. Cellular. Competition for customers also includes competing communications technologies, such as:

·                  conventional landline telephone,

·                  mobile satellite communications systems,

·                  radio paging, and

·                  high-speed wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi and WiMAX.

6




Personal communications service licensees have initiated service in nearly all areas of the United States, including substantially all of U.S. Cellular’s licensed areas, and U.S. Cellular expects other wireless operators to continue deployment in all of U.S. Cellular’s operating regions in the future. Additionally, technologies such as enhanced specialized mobile radio are competitive with wireless service in substantially all of U.S. Cellular’s markets.

The services available to wireless customers, and the sources of revenue available to wireless system operators, are similar to those provided by landline telephone companies. Customers may be charged a separate fee for system access, airtime, long-distance calls and ancillary services. Wireless system operators also provide service to customers of other operators’ wireless systems while the customers are temporarily located within the operators’ service areas.

Customers using service away from their home system are called “roamers.” Roaming is available because technical standards require that analog wireless telephones be compatible in all cellular market areas in the United States. Additionally, because U.S. Cellular has deployed digital radio technologies in substantially all of its service areas, its customers with digital, dual-mode (both analog and digital capabilities) or tri-mode (analog plus digital capabilities at both the cellular and personal communications service radio frequencies) wireless telephones can roam in other companies’ service areas which have a compatible digital technology in place. Likewise, U.S. Cellular can provide roaming service to other companies’ customers who have compatible digital wireless telephones. In all cases, the system that provides the service to roamers will generate usage revenue, at rates that have been negotiated between the serving carrier and the customer’s carrier.

There have been a number of technical developments in the wireless industry since its inception. Currently, while substantially all companies’ mobile telephone switching offices process information digitally, certain cellular systems utilize analog technology. Under FCC rules now in effect, the requirement to offer analog service will expire in February, 2008, provided that wireless carriers and their vendors can develop digital handsets compatible with certain types of hearing aids. During 2006, U.S. Cellular began providing hearing aid compatible handsets. All personal communications service systems utilize digital radio transmission.

Several years ago, certain digital transmission techniques were approved for implementation by the wireless industry in the United States. Time Division Multiple Access (“TDMA”) technology was selected as one industry standard by the wireless industry and has been deployed by many wireless operators, including U.S. Cellular in a substantial portion of its markets. Another digital technology, Code Division Multiple Access (“CDMA”), was deployed by U.S. Cellular in its remaining markets.

In 2002 through 2004, U.S. Cellular completed its deployment of CDMA 1XRTT technology, which improves capacity and allows for higher speed data transmission than basic CDMA, throughout all of its markets. Migration of U.S. Cellular’s customers who currently use TDMA or analog handsets to CDMA compatible handsets in all of its markets is substantially complete.

U.S. Cellular believes CDMA technology is the best digital radio technology choice for its operations for the following reasons:

·                  TDMA technology will not be supported by manufacturers of future generations of wireless products due to limitations on the services it enables wireless companies to provide.

·                  CDMA technology has a lower long-term cost in relation to the spectrum efficiency it provides compared to similar costs of other technologies.

·                  CDMA technology provides improved coverage at most cell sites compared to other technologies.

·                  CDMA technology provides a more efficient evolution to a wireless network with higher data speeds, which will enable U.S. Cellular to provide enhanced data services.

The main disadvantage of CDMA technology is that it is generally not used outside of the United States. A third digital technology, Global System for Mobile Communication (“GSM”), is the standard technology in Europe and most other areas outside the United States. GSM technology, which is used by certain wireless companies in the United States, has certain advantages over CDMA in that GSM phones can be used more widely outside of the United States and GSM has a larger installed worldwide customer base. Since CDMA technology is not compatible with GSM or TDMA technology, U.S. Cellular customers with CDMA-based handsets may not be able to use all of their handset features when traveling through GSM- and TDMA-based networks. Through roaming agreements with other CDMA-based wireless carriers, U.S. Cellular’s customers may access CDMA service in virtually all areas of the United States.

7




In 2006, U.S. Cellular and others in the wireless industry changed the type of handset identifier used to track specific handset units provided to customers. Similar to a vehicle identification number, each handset now has a 32-bit electronic serial number (ESN) “burned” into it for purposes of tracking service activation, billing, repair and fraud detection. The current supply of ESNs is dwindling and, over time, the current system will be replaced by a 56-bit mobile equipment identifier (MEID) system. Handset vendors began manufacturing 56-bit MEID handsets in 2006 and are expected to commence shipments of such handsets in 2007.

U.S. Cellular will continue to utilize TDMA technology for the next few years in markets in which such technology is in use today. This will enable U.S. Cellular to provide TDMA-based service to its customers who still choose to use TDMA-based handsets and to roamers from other wireless providers who have TDMA-based networks. Also, since the TDMA-based network equipment has analog capabilities embedded, U.S. Cellular will continue to operate its TDMA-based networks in order to meet the FCC mandate of retaining analog capability through February 2008.

U.S. Cellular continually reviews its long-term technology plans. In late 2006, U.S. Cellular introduced a limited trial of Evolution-Data Optimized (“EV-DO”) technology. This technology, which increases the speed of data transmissions on the wireless network, is being deployed by certain other wireless companies. U.S. Cellular will continue to further evaluate investment in EV-DO technology in light of the revenue opportunities afforded by the deployment of such technology.

U.S. Cellular’s Operations   U.S. Cellular anticipates that it will experience increases in customers served and revenues in 2007 primarily through internal growth, including growth from markets acquired or launched in 2004-2006 as these markets are more fully developed and integrated into its operations.

Expenses associated with increases in customers served and revenues will be substantial. The amount of such expenses, in combination with the gain on investments recorded in 2006, may reduce the percentage growth in operating income for 2007 on a year-over-year basis; however, U.S. Cellular anticipates that cash flows from operating activities will increase on a year-over-year basis. In addition, U.S. Cellular anticipates that the seasonality of revenue streams and operating expenses may cause U.S. Cellular’s operating income, net income and cash flows from operating activities to fluctuate from quarter to quarter.

Changes in any of several factors could impact U.S. Cellular’s operating income, net income and cash flows from operating activities, and the growth rates for such measures, over the next few years. These factors include but are not limited to:

·                  the growth rate in U.S. Cellular’s customer base;

·                  the usage and pricing of wireless services;

·                  the cost of providing wireless services, including the cost of attracting and retaining customers;

·                  the cost to develop operations of newly launched operating markets;

·                  the churn rate;

·                  continued capital expenditures, which are necessary to improve the quality of U.S. Cellular’s network and to expand its operations into new markets;

·                  continued competition from other wireless licensees and other telecommunication technologies;

·                  continued consolidation in the wireless industry;

·                  the growth in the use of U.S. Cellular’s easyedgesm brand and other brands of enhanced data services and products;

·                  declines in inbound roaming revenues; and

·                  continuing technological advances which may provide substitute or better wireless products/services and additional competitive alternatives to wireless service.

U.S. Cellular continues to build a larger presence in selected geographic areas throughout the United States where it can efficiently integrate and manage wireless telephone systems. Its wireless interests included six market areas as of December 31, 2006. See “U.S. Cellular’s Wireless Interests.”

Wireless Systems Development

Acquisitions, Divestitures and Exchanges.   U.S. Cellular assesses its wireless holdings on an ongoing basis in order to maximize the benefits derived from its operating markets.  U.S. Cellular also reviews attractive opportunities to acquire additional operating markets and wireless spectrum.  As part of this strategy, U.S. Cellular may from time-to-time be engaged in negotiations relating to the acquisition of companies, strategic properties or wireless spectrum. U.S. Cellular may participate as a bidder, or member of a bidding group, in auctions for wireless spectrum administered by the FCC. U.S. Cellular also has divested outright or included in exchanges for other wireless interests those markets that are not strategic to its long-term success and has redeployed capital to more strategically important parts of the business. As part of this strategy, U.S. Cellular may be engaged from time-to-time in negotiations relating to the disposition of other non-strategic properties.

8




U.S. Cellular may continue to make opportunistic acquisitions or exchanges in markets that further strengthen its operating market areas and in other attractive markets. U.S. Cellular also seeks to acquire minority interests in licenses where it already owns the majority interest and/or operates the license. There can be no assurance that U.S. Cellular will be able to negotiate additional acquisitions or exchanges on terms acceptable to it or that regulatory approvals, where required, will be received. U.S. Cellular plans to retain minority interests in certain wireless licenses which it believes will earn a favorable return on investment. Other minority interests may be exchanged for interests in licenses which enhance U.S. Cellular’s operations or may be sold for cash or other consideration. U.S. Cellular also continues to evaluate the disposition of certain controlling interests in wireless licenses which are not essential to its corporate development strategy.

FCC Auctions.   From time to time, the FCC conducts auctions through which additional spectrum is made available for the provision of wireless services. The FCC is required to begin the auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band no later than January 28, 2008. Although its participation is more likely than not, U.S. Cellular has not made a final determination as to whether it will participate in the auction. U.S. Cellular has participated in certain prior FCC auctions, as discussed below.

Auction 66.   A wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Cellular is a limited partner in Barat Wireless, L.P. (“Barat Wireless”), an entity which participated in the auction of wireless spectrum designated by the FCC as Auction 66, which concluded on September 18, 2006. At the conclusion of the auction, Barat Wireless was the high bidder with respect to 17 licenses and bid $127.1 million, net of its designated entity discount. Barat Wireless was qualified to receive a 25% discount available to “very small businesses”, which were defined as having annual gross revenues of less than $15 million. On April 30, 2007, the FCC granted Barat Wireless’ applications with respect to the 17 licenses for which it was the winning bidder.

Barat Wireless is in the process of developing its long-term business and financing plans.  As of December 31, 2006, U.S. Cellular has made capital contributions and advances to Barat Wireless and/or its general partner of $127.2 million to provide funding of Barat Wireless’ participation in Auction 66; this amount is included in Licenses on the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2006.   U.S. Cellular consolidates Barat Wireless and Barat Wireless, Inc., the general partner of Barat Wireless, for financial statement purposes, pursuant to the guidelines of FASB Interpretation No. 46R, “Consolidation of Variable Interest Entities” (“FIN 46R”), as U.S. Cellular anticipates absorbing a majority of Barat Wireless’ expected gains or losses. Pending finalization of Barat Wireless’ permanent financing plan, and upon request by Barat Wireless, U.S. Cellular may agree to make additional capital contributions and advances to Barat Wireless and/or its general partner.

Auction 58.   A wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Cellular is a limited partner in Carroll Wireless, L.P. (“Carroll Wireless”), an entity which participated in the auction of wireless spectrum designated by the FCC as Auction 58. Carroll Wireless was qualified to bid on “closed licenses”, -or spectrum that was available only to companies included in the FCC definition of “ entrepreneurs,” which are small businesses that have a limited amount of assets and revenues. In addition, Carroll Wireless bid on “open licenses” that were not subject to this restriction. With respect to these licenses, however, Carroll Wireless was qualified to receive a 25% discount available to “very small businesses” which were defined as having average annual gross revenues of less than $15 million.  Carroll Wireless was a successful bidder for 17 licensed areas in Auction 58, which ended on February 15, 2005. These 17 licensed areas cover portions of 12 states and are in markets which are either adjacent to or overlap current U.S. Cellular licensed areas.

On January 6, 2006, the FCC granted Carroll Wireless’ applications with respect to 16 of the 17 licenses for which it had been the successful bidder and dismissed one application, relating to Walla Walla, Washington. Following the completion of Auction 58, the FCC determined that a portion of the Walla Walla, Washington license was already licensed to another party and should not have been included in Auction 58. Accordingly, in March 2006, Carroll Wireless received a full refund of the $228,000 previously paid to the FCC with respect to the Walla Walla license.

Carroll Wireless is in the process of developing its long-term business and financing plans. As of December 31, 2006, U.S. Cellular has made capital contributions and advances to Carroll Wireless and/or its general partner of $129.9 million; of this amount, $129.7 million is included in Licenses on the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2006. U.S. Cellular consolidates Carroll Wireless and Carroll PCS, Inc., the general partner of Carroll Wireless, for financial statement purposes, pursuant to the guidelines of FIN 46R, as U.S. Cellular anticipates absorbing a majority of Carroll Wireless’ expected gains or losses. Pending finalization of Carroll Wireless’ permanent financing plan, and upon request by Carroll Wireless, U.S. Cellular may agree to make additional capital contributions and advances to Carroll Wireless and/or its general partner. In November 2005, U.S. Cellular approved additional funding of up to $1.4 million, of which $0.1 million of funding has been provided to date, for Carroll Wireless and Carroll PCS.

9




Sales and Exchanges of Wireless Interests.   In 2006, U.S. Cellular purchased the remaining interest in one wireless market in which it already owned a controlling interest for approximately $19.0 million in cash, subject to a working capital adjustment.

Prior to October 3, 2006, U.S. Cellular owned approximately 14% of Midwest Wireless Communications, L.L.C., which interest was convertible into an interest of approximately 11% in Midwest Wireless Holdings, L.L.C., a privately-held wireless telecommunications company that controlled Midwest Wireless Communications. On November 18, 2005, ALLTEL Corporation (“ALLTEL”) announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Midwest Wireless Holdings for $1.075 billion in cash, subject to certain conditions, including approval by the FCC, other governmental authorities and the holders of Midwest Wireless Holdings. These conditions were satisfied with the closing of this agreement on October 3, 2006. As a result of the sale, U.S. Cellular became entitled to receive approximately $106.0 million in cash in consideration with respect to its interest in Midwest Wireless Communications. Of this amount, $95.1 million was received on October 6, 2006; the remaining balance was held in escrow to secure true-up, indemnification and other adjustments and, subject to such adjustments, will be distributed in installments over a period of four to fifteen months following the closing. In the fourth quarter of 2006, U.S. Cellular recorded a gain of $70.4 million related to the sale of its interest in Midwest Wireless Communications. The gain recognized during the fourth quarter of 2006 includes $4.3 million received during the first four months of 2007 from the aforementioned escrow. In addition, U.S. Cellular owns 49% of an entity which, prior to October 3, 2006, owned approximately 2.9% of Midwest Wireless Holdings; U.S. Cellular accounts for that entity by the equity method. In the fourth quarter of 2006, U.S. Cellular recorded Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities of $6.3 million and received a cash distribution of $6.5 million related to its ownership interest in that entity; such income and cash distribution were due primarily to the sale of the entity’s interest in Midwest Wireless Holdings to ALLTEL.

License Rights Related to Exchange of Markets with AT&T Wireless.   Pursuant to a transaction with AT&T Wireless which was completed on August 1, 2003, U.S. Cellular acquired rights to 21 licenses that have not yet been assigned to U.S. Cellular. These licenses, with a recorded value of $42.0 million, are accounted for in Licenses on the Consolidated Balance Sheets. The rights to acquire licenses from AT&T Wireless expire on August 1, 2008. All asset values related to the properties acquired or pending, including license values, were determined by U.S. Cellular.

Wireless Interests and Operating Market Areas

U.S. Cellular operates its adjacent wireless systems under an organization structure in which it groups its markets into geographic market areas to offer customers large local service areas which primarily utilize U.S. Cellular’s network. Customers may make outgoing calls and receive incoming calls within each market area without special roaming arrangements. In addition to the benefits it provides to customers, U.S. Cellular’s operating strategy also has provided U.S. Cellular certain economies in its capital and operating costs. These economies are made possible through the reduction of outbound roaming costs and increased sharing of facilities, personnel and other costs, enabling U.S. Cellular to reduce its per customer cost of service. The extent to which U.S. Cellular benefits from these revenue enhancements and economies of operation is dependent on market conditions, population size of each market area and network engineering considerations.

The following section details U.S. Cellular’s wireless interests, including those it owned or had the right to acquire as of December 31, 2006. The table presented therein lists the markets that U.S. Cellular includes in its consolidated operations, grouped according to operating market area. The operating market areas represent geographic areas in which U.S. Cellular is currently focusing its development efforts. These market areas have been devised with a long-term goal of allowing delivery of wireless service to areas of economic interest. The table also lists the markets in which U.S. Cellular owns an investment interest.

For consolidated markets, the table aggregates the total population within each operating market area, regardless of U.S. Cellular’s percentage ownership, or expected percentage ownership pursuant to definitive agreements, in the licenses included in such operating market areas. Those markets in which U.S. Cellular owns or has the rights to own less than 100% of the license show U.S. Cellular’s ownership percentage or expected ownership percentage; in all others, U.S. Cellular owns or has the rights to own 100% of the license. For licenses in which U.S. Cellular owns an investment interest, the related population equivalents are shown, defined as the total population of each licensed area multiplied by U.S. Cellular’s ownership interest in each such license.

The total population and population equivalents measures are provided to enable comparison of the relative size of each operating market area to U.S. Cellular’s consolidated operations and to enable comparison of the relative size of U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets to its investment interests, respectively. The total population of U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets may have no direct relationship to the number of wireless customers or the revenues that may be realized from the operation of the related wireless systems.

 

10




U.S. CELLULAR’S WIRELESS INTERESTS

The table below sets forth certain information with respect to the interests in wireless markets which U.S. Cellular owned or had the right to acquire pursuant to definitive agreements as of December 31, 2006. Total markets owned or that U.S. Cellular had the right to acquire pursuant to definitive agreements does not include the 17 licenses for which Barat Wireless was the successful bidder in Auction 66, which ended on September 18, 2006. On April 30, 2007, the FCC granted Barat Wireless’ applications with respect to the 17 licenses for which it was the winning bidder.

Some of the territory covered by the personal communications service licenses U.S. Cellular owns overlaps with territory covered by the cellular licenses it owns. For the purpose of tracking amounts in the “2005 Total Population” column in the table below, when U.S. Cellular acquires or agrees to acquire a licensed area that overlaps a licensed area it already owns, it does not duplicate the total population for any overlapping licensed area.

 

 

Current or

 

 

 

 

 

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage

 

2005 Total

 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

Interest(1)

 

Population(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Markets Currently Consolidated or Which Are Expected To Be Consolidated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDWEST MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Major Trading Area/Michigan

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago, IL-IN-MI-OH 20MHz B Block MTA # (3) (4)

 

 

 

 

 

Kalamazoo, MI 20MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Creek, MI 20MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson, MI 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13,119,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin/Minnesota

 

 

 

 

 

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI 10 MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

%

 

 

Milwaukee, WI

 

 

 

 

 

Madison, WI

 

92.50

 

 

 

Columbia (WI 9)

 

 

 

 

 

Appleton, WI

 

 

 

 

 

Wood (WI 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Rochester, MN 10MHz F Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Vernon (WI 8)

 

 

 

 

 

Green Bay, WI

 

 

 

 

 

Racine, WI

 

96.08

 

 

 

Kenosha, WI

 

99.32

 

 

 

Janesville-Beloit, WI

 

 

 

 

 

Door (WI 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Sheboygan, WI

 

 

 

 

 

La Crosse, WI

 

97.21

 

 

 

Trempealeau (WI 6) (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Pierce (WI 5) (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Madison, WI 10MHz F Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee, WI 10MHz D Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee, WI 10MHz F Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8,253,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois/Indiana

 

 

 

 

 

Indianapolis, IN 10MHz F Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Peoria, IL

 

 

 

 

 

Rockford, IL

 

 

 

 

 

Jo Daviess (IL 1)

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomington-Bedford, IN 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Terre Haute, IN-IL 20MHz B Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Carbondale-Marion, IL 10MHz A Block/10MHz D Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Adams (IL 4) *

 

 

 

 

 

Mercer (IL 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Miami (IN 4) * (8)

 

85.71

 

 

 

Muncie, IN 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

11




 

 

 

Current or

 

 

 

 

 

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage

 

2005 Total

 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

Interest(1)

 

Population(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anderson, IN 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Lafayette, IN 10MHz B Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Columbus, IN 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Warren (IN 5) *

 

33.33

 

 

 

Mount Vernon-Centralia, IL 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Kokomo-Logansport, IN 10MHz B Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Richmond, IN 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Vincennes-Washington, IN-IL 10MHz B Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Marion, IN 10MHz B Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Alton, IL *

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomington, IL 10MHz E Block/10MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomington-Bedford, IN 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Champaign-Urbana, IL 10MHz E Block/F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Columbus, IN 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Danville, IL-IN 15MHz C Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Decatur-Effingham, IL 10MHz E Block/10MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Galesburg, IL 30MHz C Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Indianapolis, IN 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Jacksonville, IL 10MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Lafayette, IN 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

LaSalle-Peru-Ottawa-Streator, IL 10MHz C Block/10 MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Marion, IN 10MHz F Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Mattoon, IL 10MHz E Block/10MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Peoria, IL 10MHz C Block/10 MHz E Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Rockford, IL 10MHz E Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Springfield, IL 10MHz E Block/10MHz F Block # (7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5,262,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska/South Dakota

 

 

 

 

 

Des Moines, IA

 

 

 

 

 

Davenport, IA-IL

 

 

 

 

 

Sioux City, IA-NE-SD 10MHz F Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Cedar Rapids, IA

 

96.76

 

 

 

Humboldt (IA 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa (IA 6)

 

 

 

 

 

Muscatine (IA 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA

 

93.03

 

 

 

Iowa City, IA

 

 

 

 

 

Hardin (IA 11)

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson (IA 5)

 

 

 

 

 

Kossuth (IA 14)

 

 

 

 

 

Lyon (IA 16)

 

 

 

 

 

Dubuque, IA

 

97.55

 

 

 

Mitchell (IA 13)

 

 

 

 

 

Audubon (IA 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Union (IA 2)

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Dodge, IA 10MHz D Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Burlington, IA-IL-MO 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Clinton, IA-IL 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Davenport, IA-IL 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Des Moines, IA 10MHz D Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa City, IA 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Ottumwa, IA 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,743,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska/Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha, NE-IA 10 MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln, NE 10MHz F Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Boone (NE 5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

12




 

 

 

Current or

 

 

 

 

 

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage

 

2005 Total

 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

Interest(1)

 

Population(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knox (NE 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Keith (NE 6)

 

 

 

 

 

Hall (NE 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Cass (NE 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Adams (NE 9)

 

 

 

 

 

Mills (IA 1)

 

 

 

 

 

Chase (NE 8)

 

 

 

 

 

Grant (NE 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry (NE 2)

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha, NE-IA 10MHz E Block # (5) (7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,839,000

 

TOTAL MIDWEST MARKET AREA

 

 

 

31,216,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTHWEST MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Texas/Oklahoma/Missouri/Kansas/Arkansas

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma City, OK 10MHz F Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Tulsa, OK *

 

 

 

 

 

Wichita, KS 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Fayetteville-Springdale, AR 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Smith, AR-OK 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Seminole (OK 6)

 

 

 

 

 

Garvin (OK 9)

 

 

 

 

 

Reno (KS 14)

 

 

 

 

 

Joplin, MO *

 

 

 

 

 

Elk (KS 15) * (8)

 

75.00

 

 

 

Wichita Falls, TX *

 

78.45

 

 

 

Ellsworth (KS 8)

 

 

 

 

 

Marshall (KS 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Barton (MO 14)

 

 

 

 

 

Franklin (KS 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Lawton, OK *

 

78.45

 

 

 

Nowata (OK 4) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence, KS 10MHz E Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson (OK 8) *

 

78.45

 

 

 

Enid, OK 10MHz C Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Haskell (OK 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Stillwater, OK 10MHz F Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Morris (KS 9)

 

 

 

 

 

Jewell (KS 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Ponca City, OK 30MHz C Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Hardeman (TX 5) * (3)

 

78.45

 

 

 

Briscoe (TX 4) * (3)

 

78.45

 

 

 

Beckham (OK 7) * (3)

 

78.45

 

 

 

Oklahoma City, OK 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5,924,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri/Illinois/Kansas/Arkansas

 

 

 

 

 

St. Louis, MO-IL 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Springfield, MO 20MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

St. Joseph, MO-KS 10MHz E Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Girardeau-Sikeston, MO-IL 10MHz A Block/10MHz D Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Moniteau (MO 11)

 

 

 

 

 

Columbia, MO *

 

 

 

 

 

Poplar Bluff, MO-AR 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Stone (MO 15)

 

 

 

 

 

Laclede (MO 16)

 

 

 

 

 

Rolla, MO 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Washington (MO 13)

 

 

 

 

 

Callaway (MO 6) *

 

 

 

 

 

 

13




 

 

 

Current or

 

 

 

 

 

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage

 

2005 Total

 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

Interest(1)

 

Population(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedalia, MO 10MHz C Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Schuyler (MO 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon (MO 17)

 

 

 

 

 

Linn (MO 5) (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Jefferson City, MO 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Columbia, MO 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Harrison (MO 2) (3)

 

 

 

 

 

West Plains, MO-AR 10MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4,850,000

 

TOTAL SOUTHWEST MARKET AREA

 

 

 

10,774,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MID-ATLANTIC MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern North Carolina/South Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

Charlotte-Gastonia, NC-SC 10 MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Harnett (NC 10)

 

 

 

 

 

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 10 MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Rockingham (NC 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Northampton (NC 8)

 

 

 

 

 

Greenville (NC 14)

 

 

 

 

 

Greene (NC 13)

 

 

 

 

 

Hoke (NC 11)

 

 

 

 

 

Wilmington, NC

 

98.82

 

 

 

Chesterfield (SC 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Chatham (NC 6)

 

 

 

 

 

Sampson (NC 12)

 

 

 

 

 

Jacksonville, NC

 

97.57

 

 

 

Camden (NC 9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5,345,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia/North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

Greensboro, NC 10 MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Roanoke, VA

 

 

 

 

 

Giles (VA 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Bedford (VA 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Ashe (NC 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Charlottesville, VA

 

95.37

 

 

 

Lynchburg, VA

 

 

 

 

 

Staunton-Waynesboro, VA 15 MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Danville, VA-NC 10 MHz F Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Buckingham (VA 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Tazewell (VA 2) (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Bath (VA 5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,866,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Virginia/Maryland/Pennsylvania

 

 

 

 

 

Monongalia (WV 3) *

 

 

 

 

 

Raleigh (WV 7) *

 

 

 

 

 

Grant (WV 4) *

 

 

 

 

 

Hagerstown, MD *

 

 

 

 

 

Tucker (WV 5) *

 

 

 

 

 

Cumberland, MD *

 

 

 

 

 

Bedford (PA 10) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Garrett (MD 1) *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,180,000

 

TOTAL MID-ATLANTIC MARKET AREA

 

 

 

9,391,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAINE/NEW HAMPSHIRE/VERMONT MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Portland-Brunswick, ME 10MHz A Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Burlington, VT 10MHz D Block #

 

 

 

 

 

 

14




 

 

 

Current or

 

 

 

 

 

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage

 

2005 Total

 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

Interest(1)

 

Population(2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester-Nashua, NH

 

96.66

 

 

 

Carroll (NH 2)

 

 

 

 

 

Coos (NH 1) *

 

 

 

 

 

Kennebec (ME 3)

 

 

 

 

 

Bangor, ME

 

97.57

 

 

 

Somerset (ME 2)

 

 

 

 

 

Addison (VT 2) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Lewiston-Auburn, ME

 

88.45

 

 

 

Oxford (ME 1)

 

 

 

 

 

Washington (ME 4) *

 

 

 

 

 

Rutland-Bennington, VT 10MHz D Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Lebanon-Claremont, NH-VT 10MHz A Block # (5)

 

 

 

 

 

Burlington, VT 10MHz E Block # (5) (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Portland-Brunswick, ME 10MHz C Block # (6) (7)

 

90.00

 

 

 

TOTAL MAINE/NEW HAMPSHIRE/ VERMONT MARKET AREA

 

 

 

2,839,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORTHWEST MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon/California

 

 

 

 

 

Coos (OR 5)

 

 

 

 

 

Crook (OR 6) *

 

 

 

 

 

Del Norte (CA 1)

 

 

 

 

 

Medford, OR *

 

 

 

 

 

Mendocino (CA 9)

 

 

 

 

 

Modoc (CA 2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,133,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington/Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

Yakima, WA *

 

87.81

 

 

 

Richland-Kennewick-Pasco, WA *

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific (WA 6) *

 

 

 

 

 

Umatilla (OR 3) *

 

 

 

 

 

Okanogan (WA 4)

 

 

 

 

 

Kittitas (WA 5) * (3)

 

98.24

 

 

 

Hood River (OR 2) *

 

 

 

 

 

Skamania (WA 7) *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,123,000

 

TOTAL NORTHWEST MARKET AREA

 

 

 

2,256,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTERN TENNESSEE/WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA MARKET AREA:

 

 

 

 

 

Knoxville, TN *

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville, NC *

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville-Hendersonville, NC 10MHz C Block # (6)

 

90.00

 

 

 

Henderson (NC 4) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Bledsoe (TN 7) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Hamblen (TN 4) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

Macon (TN 3) *

 

 

 

 

 

Cleveland, TN 10MHz C Block #

 

 

 

 

 

Yancey (NC 2) * (3)

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL EASTERN TENNESSEE/WESTERN
NORTH CAROLINA MARKET AREA

 

 

 

2,134,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Markets:

 

 

 

 

 

Jefferson (NY 1) *

 

60.00

 

 

 

Franklin (NY 2) *

 

57.14

 

 

 

Total Other Markets

 

 

 

487,000

 

Total Consolidated Markets

 

 

 

59,097,000

 

 

15




 

 

Market Area/Market

 

 

2005 Total
Population(2)

 

Current
Percentage
Interest(1)

 

Current and
Acquirable
Population
Equivalents(9)

 

Investment Markets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles/Oxnard, CA *

 

17,663,000

 

5.50

%

971,000

 

Oklahoma City, OK *

 

1,102,000

 

14.60

 

161,000

 

Cherokee (NC 1) *

 

208,000

 

50.00

 

104,000

 

Others (Fewer than 100,000 population equivalents each)

 

 

 

 

 

303,000

 

Total Population Equivalents in Investment Markets

 

 

 

 

 

1,539,000

 


*                                         Designates wireline cellular licensed area.

#                                         Designates personal communications service licensed area.

(1)                                  Represents U.S. Cellular’s ownership percentage in these licensed areas as of December 31, 2006 or as of the completion of any related transactions pending as of December 31, 2006. U.S. Cellular owns or has the rights to own 100% of any licensed areas which do not indicate a percentage. The licensed areas included under the caption “Markets Currently Consolidated or Which Are Expected to Be Consolidated” represent those markets which are currently included in U.S. Cellular’s consolidated operating results, or are expected to be included in U.S. Cellular’s operating results when acquired. U.S. Cellular and its consolidated subsidiaries own rights to acquire controlling financial interests in certain licensed areas as a result of an exchange transaction with AT&T Wireless that was completed on August 1, 2003. See “Wireless Systems Development” for further information regarding these rights.

(2)                                  “2005 Total Population” represents the total population of the licensed area in which U.S. Cellular owns or has rights to own an interest, based on 2005 Claritas estimates (without duplication of the population counts of any overlapping licensed areas). In personal communications service licensed areas, this amount represents the portion of the personal communications service licensed areas owned that is not already served by a cellular licensed area in which U.S. Cellular owns a controlling interest. The “2005 Total Population” of those licensed areas included in “Markets Currently Consolidated or Which Are Expected to Be Consolidated” (as defined in Note 1 above) includes rights to acquire licensed areas with a total population of 3,554,000. Excluding the population of these licensed areas to be acquired, the total population of U.S. Cellular’s licensed areas was 55,543,000 at December 31, 2006.

(3)                                  These markets have been partitioned into more than one licensed area. The 2005 population, percentage ownership and number of population equivalents shown are for the licensed areas within the markets in which U.S. Cellular owns an interest.

(4)                                  This personal communications service licensed area is made up of 18 basic trading areas, as follows: Benton Harbor, MI; Bloomington, IL; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Chicago, IL (excluding Kenosha County, WI); Danville, IL-IN; Decatur-Effingham, IL; Elkhart, IN-MI; Fort Wayne, IN-OH; Galesburg, IL; Jacksonville, IL; Kankakee, IL; LaSalle-Peru-Ottawa-Streator, IL; Mattoon, IL; Michigan City, IN; Peoria, IL; Rockford, IL; South Bend-Mishawaka, IN; and Springfield, IL.

(5)                                  U.S. Cellular acquired the rights to these licensed areas during 2003. Pursuant to an agreement with the seller of these licensed areas, U.S. Cellular has deferred the assignment and development of these licensed areas until up to five years from the closing date of the original transaction.

(6)                                  These licensed areas are held by Carroll Wireless. See discussion in “Wireless Systems Development — Auction 58” above.

(7)                                  These licensed areas represent personal communications service spectrum that overlaps similar personal communications service spectrum U.S. Cellular currently owns. As a result, neither these markets nor their respective total population amounts are included in the total markets and total population amounts discussed throughout this Form 10-K.

(8)                                  The percentage ownership shown for these markets is for U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries. The remaining ownership interests in these markets are held by TDS.

(9)                                  “Current and Acquirable Population Equivalents” are derived by multiplying the amount in the “2005 Total Population” column by the percentage interest indicated in the “Current Percentage Interest” column.

System Design and Construction.   U.S. Cellular designs and constructs its systems in a manner it believes will permit it to provide high-quality service to substantially all types of wireless telephones which are compatible with its network technology, based on market and engineering studies which relate to specific markets. Such engineering studies are performed by U.S. Cellular personnel or third party engineering firms. U.S. Cellular’s switching equipment is digital, which provides high-quality transmissions and is capable of interconnecting in a manner which minimizes costs of operation. Both analog and digital radio transmissions are made between cell sites and the wireless telephones. During 2006, over 99% of this traffic utilized digital radio transmissions. Network reliability is given careful consideration and extensive redundancy is employed in many aspects of U.S. Cellular’s network design. Route diversity, ring topology and extensive use of emergency standby power are also utilized to enhance network reliability and minimize service disruption from any particular network failure.

16




In accordance with its strategy of building and strengthening its operating market areas, U.S. Cellular has selected high-capacity digital wireless switching systems that are capable of serving multiple markets through a single mobile telephone switching office. U.S. Cellular’s wireless systems are designed to facilitate the installation of equipment which will permit microwave interconnection between the mobile telephone switching office and the cell site. U.S. Cellular has implemented such microwave interconnection in many of the wireless systems it operates. In other areas, U.S. Cellular’s systems rely upon landline telephone connections to link cell sites with the mobile telephone switching office. Although the installation of microwave network interconnection equipment requires a greater initial capital investment, a microwave network enables a system operator to reduce the current and future charges associated with leasing telephone lines from the landline telephone company.

Additionally, U.S. Cellular has developed and continues to expand a wide area data network to accommodate various business functions, including:

·                  order processing,

·                  over the air provisioning,

·                  automatic call delivery,

·                  intersystem handoff,

·                  credit validation,

·                  fraud prevention,

·                  call data record collection,

·                  network management,

·                  long-distance traffic, and

·                  interconnectivity of all of U.S. Cellular’s mobile telephone switching offices and cell sites.

In addition, the wide area network accommodates virtually all internal data communications between various U.S. Cellular office and retail locations to process customer activations. The wide area network is deployed in all of U.S. Cellular’s customer service centers (“Customer Care Centers”) for all customer service functions using U.S. Cellular’s billing and information system.

U.S. Cellular believes that currently available technologies and appropriate capital additions will allow sufficient capacity on its networks to meet anticipated demand for voice services over the next few years. High-speed data and video services may require the acquisition of additional licenses or spectrum to provide sufficient capacity in markets where U.S. Cellular offers these services.

Costs of System Construction and Financing

Construction of wireless systems is capital-intensive, requiring substantial investment for land and improvements, buildings, towers, mobile telephone switching offices, cell site equipment, microwave equipment, engineering and installation. Consistent with FCC control requirements, U.S. Cellular uses primarily its own personnel to engineer each wireless system it owns and operates, and engages contractors to construct the facilities.

The costs (exclusive of the costs to acquire licenses) to develop the systems in which U.S. Cellular owns a controlling interest have historically been financed primarily through proceeds from debt and equity offerings and, in recent years, with cash generated by operations and proceeds from the sales of wireless interests. U.S. Cellular expects to meet most of its future funding requirements with cash generated by operations and, on a temporary basis, borrowings under its revolving credit facility. U.S. Cellular also may have access to public and private capital markets to help meet its long-term financing needs. U.S. Cellular estimates its capital expenditures in 2007 will total between $600 million and $615 million.

17




Marketing

U.S. Cellular’s marketing plan is focused on acquiring, retaining and growing customer relationships by offering high-quality products and services—built around customer needs—at fair prices, supported by outstanding customer service. U.S. Cellular increases customer awareness through the use of traditional media such as TV, radio, newspaper and direct mail advertising, and nontraditional media such as the Internet and sponsorships. U.S. Cellular has achieved its current level of penetration of its markets through a combination of a strong brand, promotional advertising and broad distribution, and has been able to sustain a high customer retention rate based on its high-quality wireless network and outstanding customer service. U.S. Cellular supports a multi-faceted distribution program, including retail sales and service centers, independent agents and direct sales, in the vast majority of its markets, plus the Internet and telesales for customers who wish to contact U.S. Cellular through those channels. U.S. Cellular maintains a low customer churn rate (relative to several other wireless carriers) by focusing on customer satisfaction, development of processes that are more customer-friendly, extensive training of frontline sales and support associates and the implementation of retention programs. The marketing plan stresses the value of U.S. Cellular’s service offerings and incorporates combinations of rate plans, additional value-added features and services and wireless telephone equipment which are designed to meet the needs of defined customer segments and their usage patterns.

Company-owned and managed locations are designed to market wireless service to the consumer and small business segments in a setting familiar to these types of customers. U.S. Cellular’s e-commerce site enables customers to activate service and purchase a broad range of accessories online, and this site is continually evolving to address customers’ current needs. Traffic on U.S. Cellular’s Web site is increasing as customers use the site for gathering information, purchasing handsets and accessories, signing up for service, exploring easyedgeSM applications and finding the locations of its stores and agents.

Direct sales consultants market wireless service to mid- and large-size business customers. Retail sales associates work out of over 390 U.S. Cellular-operated retail stores and kiosks and market wireless service primarily to the consumer and small business segments. U.S. Cellular maintains an ongoing training program to improve the effectiveness of sales consultants and retail associates by focusing their efforts on obtaining customers and maximizing the sale of appropriate packages for the customer’s expected usage and value-added services that meet customer needs.

U.S. Cellular has relationships with agents, dealers and non-Company retailers to obtain customers, and at year-end 2006 had contracts with these businesses aggregating over 1,700 locations. Agents and dealers are independent business entities who obtain customers for U.S. Cellular on a commission basis. U.S. Cellular has provided additional support and training to its exclusive agents to increase customer satisfaction for customers they serve. U.S. Cellular’s agents are generally in the business of selling wireless telephones, wireless service packages and other related products. U.S. Cellular’s dealers include major appliance dealers, car stereo companies and mass merchants including regional and national companies such as Wal-Mart and RadioShack. Additionally, in support of its overall Internet initiatives, U.S. Cellular has recruited agents who provide services exclusively through the Internet. No single agent, dealer or other non-Company retailer accounted for 10% or more of U.S. Cellular’s operating revenues during the past three years.

U.S. Cellular believes that, while strategy is set at the corporate level, day-to-day tactical operating decisions should be made close to the customer and, accordingly, it manages its operating market areas with a decentralized staff, including sales, marketing, network operations, engineering and finance personnel. U.S. Cellular currently operates five regional Customer Care Centers whose personnel are responsible for customer service and certain other functions, and two national financial services centers, whose personnel perform credit and other customer care functions.

U.S. Cellular uses a variety of direct mail, billboard, radio, television and newspaper advertising to stimulate interest by prospective customers in purchasing U.S. Cellular’s wireless service and to establish familiarity with U.S. Cellular’s name. U.S. Cellular operates under a unified brand name and logo, U.S. Cellular®, across all its markets, and uses the tag line, “We Connect With You”®.

U.S. Cellular’s advertising is directed at gaining customers, improving customers’ awareness of the U.S. Cellular® brand, increasing existing customers’ usage of U.S. Cellular’s services and increasing the public awareness and understanding of the wireless services it offers. U.S. Cellular attempts to select the advertising and promotion media that are most appealing to the targeted groups of potential customers in each local market. U.S. Cellular supplements its advertising with a focused public relations program. This program combines nationally supported activities and unique local activities, events, and sponsorships to enhance public awareness of U.S. Cellular and its brand. These programs are aimed at supporting the communities U.S. Cellular serves. The programs range from loaning phones to public service operations in emergencies, to assisting victims of domestic abuse through U.S. Cellular’s Stop Abuse From Existing programs, to supporting safe driving programs.

18




 

In 2003, U.S. Cellular secured the naming rights to the home of the Chicago White Sox American League baseball team, which is now called U.S. Cellular Field. Concurrent with the naming rights agreement, U.S. Cellular purchased a media package with rights to place various forms of advertising in and around the facility. Through events held at U.S. Cellular® Field such as the 2003 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and 2005 Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series, these agreements have increased the visibility of U.S. Cellular’s brand not only in Chicago but throughout the United States.

U.S. Cellular continues to migrate customers in its cellular licensed areas from analog to digital service plans, and as of year-end 2006 over 99% of the minutes used were on U.S. Cellular’s digital network. Additionally, as of year-end 2006, U.S. Cellular was offering its easyedgesm brand of enhanced data services in all of its operating market areas, supporting that effort using a wide variety of media. These enhanced data services include downloading news/weather/sports information/games, ringtones and other consumer services as well as wireless modem capabilities to use with personal computers in some markets. In 2005, U.S. Cellular began offering SpeedTalkSM, its walkie-talkie service, and BlackBerry® handsets and the related services to its customers in all market areas. U.S. Cellular plans on further expansion of its easyedgesm and other enhanced services in 2007 and beyond. In November 2006, U.S. Cellular began trialing enhanced multimedia services including Digital Radio, Mobile TV and 3D Gaming over its EV-DO network in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The following table summarizes, by operating market area, the total population, U.S. Cellular’s customers and penetration for U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets as of December 31, 2006.

 

Operating Market Areas

 

 

Population (1)

 

Customers

 

Penetration

 

Midwest Market Area

 

29,361,000

 

2,890,000

 

9.8

%

Southwest Market Area

 

9,104,000

 

754,000

 

8.3

%

Mid-Atlantic Market Area

 

9,391,000

 

933,000

 

9.9

%

Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont Market Area

 

2,810,000

 

481,000

 

17.1

%

Northwest Market Area

 

2,256,000

 

407,000

 

18.0

%

Eastern Tennessee/Western North Carolina Market Area

 

2,134,000

 

219,000

 

10.3

%

Other Markets

 

487,000

 

131,000

 

26.9

%

 

 

55,543,000

 

5,815,000

 

10.5

%


(1)    Represents 100% of the population of the licensed areas in which U.S. Cellular has a controlling interest, based on 2005 Claritas population estimates. “Population” in this context includes only the areas covering such markets and is only used for the purposes of calculating market penetration and is not related to “population equivalents,” as previously defined.

Customers and System Usage

U.S. Cellular provides service to a broad range of customers from a wide spectrum of demographic segments. U.S. Cellular uses a segmentation model to classify businesses and consumers into logical groupings for developing new products and services, direct marketing campaigns, and retention efforts. U.S. Cellular focuses on both consumer and business customers, with increasing focus on the small-to-mid-size business customers in vertical industries such as construction, retail, professional services and real estate. These industries are primarily served through U.S. Cellular’s retail and direct sales channels.

On average, the retail customers in U.S. Cellular’s consolidated markets used their wireless systems approximately 704 minutes per month and generated retail service revenue of $41.44 per month during 2006, compared to 625 minutes and $39.76 per month in 2005. Additional revenues generated by roamers using U.S. Cellular’s systems (“inbound roaming”) plus other service revenues, brought U.S. Cellular’s total average monthly service revenue per customer to $47.23 during 2006, an increase of 4.4% from $45.24 in 2005. In 2006, U.S. Cellular revamped its rate plans, bundling the most valuable features and introducing more attractive Family Plans and Small Business Plans. These new plans together with increased sales of enhanced services contributed to the increase in average retail service revenue per customer in 2006. U.S. Cellular anticipates that total service revenues will continue to grow for the foreseeable future and that both average monthly retail service revenue per customer and average monthly total service revenue per customer will increase slightly in the future.

19




 

U.S. Cellular’s main sources of revenues are from its own customers and from inbound roaming customers. The interconnectivity of wireless service enables a customer who is in a wireless service area other than the customer’s home service area (“a roamer”) to place or receive a call in that service area. U.S. Cellular has entered into roaming agreements with operators of other wireless systems covering virtually all systems with TDMA and CDMA technology in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Roaming agreements offer customers the opportunity to roam on these systems. These reciprocal agreements automatically pre-register the customers of U.S. Cellular’s systems in the other carriers’ systems. Also, a customer of a participating system roaming  in a U.S. Cellular market where this arrangement is in effect is able to make and receive calls on U.S. Cellular’s system. The charge for this service is negotiated as part of the roaming agreement between U.S. Cellular and the roaming customer’s carrier. U.S. Cellular bills this charge to the customer’s home carrier, which then bills the customer. In some instances, based on competitive factors, many carriers, including U.S. Cellular, may charge lower amounts to their customers than the amounts actually charged to the carriers by other wireless carriers for roaming.

The following table summarizes certain information about customers and market penetration in U.S. Cellular’s consolidated operations.

 

 

Year Ended or At December 31,

 

 

 

2006

 

2005

 

2004

 

2003

 

2002

 

Majority-owned and managed markets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wireless markets included in consolidated operations (1)

 

201

 

189

 

175

 

182

 

178

 

Total population of markets included in consolidated operations (000s) (2)

 

55,543

 

45,244

 

44,391

 

46,267

 

41,048

 

Customers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

at beginning of period (3)

 

5,482,000

 

4,945,000

 

4,409,000

 

4,103,000

 

3,461,000

 

net acquired (divested) during period (4)

 

23,000

 

60,000

 

(91,000

)

(141,000

)

332,000

 

additions during period (3)

 

1,535,000

 

1,540,000

 

1,557,000

 

1,357,000

 

1,244,000

 

disconnects during period (3)

 

(1,225,000

)

(1,063,000

)

(930,000

)

(910,000

)

(934,000

)

at end of period (3)

 

5,815,000

 

5,482,000

 

4,945,000

 

4,409,000

 

4,103,000

 

Market penetration at end of period (5)

 

10.5

%

12.1

%

11.1

%

9.5

%

10.0

%

 

 

 

Year Ended or At December 31,

 

(Dollars in thousands)

 

2006

 

2005

 

2004

 

2003

 

2002

 

Consolidated revenues

 

$

3,473,155

 

$

3,030,765

 

$

2,806,418

 

$

2,577,810

 

$

2,196,142

 

Depreciation expense

 

516,637

 

465,097

 

454,654

 

376,931

 

313,215

 

Amortization and accretion expense

 

58,475

 

45,390

 

47,910

 

57,564

 

39,161

 

Operating income

 

289,896

 

231,197

 

162,583

 

106,532

 

275,217

 

Capital expenditures

 

579,785

 

576,525

 

636,097

 

630,864

 

732,376

 

Business segment assets

 

$

5,680,616

 

$

5,416,233

 

$

5,171,213

 

$

4,963,839

 

$

4,802,297

 


(1)          Represents the number of licensed areas in which U.S. Cellular owned a controlling financial interest at the end of each year. The results of operations of these licensed areas are included in U.S. Cellular’s Consolidated Statements of Operations.

(2)          The decline in Total Population in 2004 reflects the divestitures of markets to AT&T Wireless and ALLTEL.

(3)          Represents the number of wireless customers served by U.S. Cellular in the licensed areas referred to in footnote (1). The revenues earned from services to such customers are included in the Consolidated Statements of Operations.

(4)          Represents the net number of wireless customers added to or subtracted from U.S. Cellular’s customer base during the period due to acquisitions and divestitures of wireless licenses.

(5)          Calculated by dividing the number of wireless customers at the end of the period by the total population of consolidated markets in service as estimated by Claritas.

Products and Services

Wireless Telephones and Installation.  U.S. Cellular offers a wide range of digital wireless telephones for use by its customers. U.S. Cellular’s retail and agent locations no longer offer analog handsets, but its network continues to facilitate analog traffic and its customer service and repair centers continue to provide service to users of analog handsets. U.S. Cellular’s digital service offerings include additional features such as caller ID, short messaging services and data transmission, including camera features, downloading and wireless modem capabilities. A majority of new customers are selecting dual-mode or tri-mode wireless telephones to fully utilize these features. Certain dual-mode or tri-mode wireless telephones can be used on both analog and digital networks but, increasingly, such telephones are being manufactured with digital capability only. These dual-mode or tri-mode types of wireless telephones and associated features appeal to newer segments of the customer population, especially a younger demographic group which has become a fast-growing portion of the wireless user population. Dual-mode and tri-mode wireless telephones also enable customers to enjoy virtually seamless roaming in the United States, Canada and Mexico, regardless of their travel patterns. U.S. Cellular emphasizes these types of wireless telephones in its marketing efforts.

20




 

U.S. Cellular negotiates volume discounts with its wireless telephone suppliers. U.S. Cellular significantly increased its purchasing power in 2002 by implementing a distribution system that enables it to efficiently sell and distribute handsets to its agents, and has expanded its sales of handsets to agents since that time. U.S. Cellular frequently discounts wireless telephones sold to new and current customers and provides upgraded handsets to current customers to meet competition, stimulate sales or retain customers by reducing the cost of becoming or remaining a wireless customer. In most instances, where permitted by law, customers are generally required to sign a new service contract or extend their current service contract with U.S. Cellular at the time the handset sale takes place. U.S. Cellular also works with wireless equipment manufacturers in promoting specific equipment in its local advertising.

U.S. Cellular has established service facilities in many of its local markets to ensure quality service and repair of the wireless telephones it sells. These facilities allow U.S. Cellular to improve its handset repair service by promptly assisting customers who experience equipment problems. Additionally, U.S. Cellular employs a repair facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to handle more complex service and repair issues.

Wireless Services.  U.S. Cellular’s customers are able to choose from a variety of packaged voice and data pricing plans which are designed to fit different usage patterns and customer needs. The ability to help a customer find the right pricing plan is central to U.S. Cellular’s brand positioning. U.S. Cellular generally offers wide area and national consumer plans that can be tailored to a customer’s needs by the addition of features or feature packages. Many consumer plans enable small work groups or families to share the plan minutes, enabling the customer to get more value for their money. Business rate plans are offered to companies to meet their unique needs. Most U.S. Cellular national rate plans price all calls, regardless of where they are made or received, as local calls with no long distance or roaming charges. Additionally, U.S. Cellular offers a hybrid prepaid service plan, TalkTracker®, which includes packages of minutes for a monthly fee.

U.S. Cellular’s customer bills typically show separate charges for custom usage features, airtime in excess of the packaged amount (such packages may include roaming and toll usage), roaming and toll calls and data usage. Custom usage features provided by U.S. Cellular include wide-area call delivery, call forwarding, voice mail, call waiting, three-way calling and no-answer transfer.

Regulation

Regulatory Environment.  U.S. Cellular’s operations are subject to FCC and state regulation. The wireless telephone licenses U.S. Cellular holds are granted by the FCC for the use of radio frequencies in the 800 megahertz band (“cellular” licenses), and in the 1900 megahertz band (“personal communications service” licenses), and are an important component of the overall value of U.S. Cellular’s assets. The construction, operation and transfer of wireless systems in the United States are regulated to varying degrees by the FCC pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934 (“Communications Act”). In 1996, Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“Telecommunications Act”), which amended the Communications Act. The Telecommunications Act mandated significant changes in telecommunications rules and policies to promote competition, ensure the availability of telecommunications services to all parts of the United States and streamline regulation of the telecommunications industry to remove regulatory burdens, as competition develops. The FCC has promulgated regulations governing construction and operation of wireless systems, licensing (including renewal of licenses) and technical standards for the provision of wireless telephone service under the Communications Act, and is implementing the legislative objectives of the Telecommunications Act, as discussed below.

Licensing—Wireless Service.  For cellular telephone licensing purposes, the FCC has divided the United States into separate geographic markets (metropolitan statistical areas and rural service areas). In each market, the allocated cellular frequencies are divided into two equal blocks.

Since January 1, 2002, an entity which controls one cellular system in a metropolitan statistical area has been able to control the competing cellular system in that metropolitan statistical area. The FCC determined that wireless competition in metropolitan statistical areas among cellular, personal communications service and certain specialized mobile radio carriers, such as Sprint Nextel, which interconnect with the public switched telephone network, was sufficient to permit relaxation of the former prohibition on metropolitan statistical area cross-ownership.

Effective February 14, 2005, the FCC also repealed the rule which prohibited any entity which controlled a cellular system in a rural service area from owning an interest in another cellular system in the same rural service area.  Acquisition of both cellular licenses in the same rural service area are now evaluated on a case by case basis.

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The FCC originally allocated a total of 140 megahertz for broadband personal communications service, 20 megahertz to unlicensed operations and 120 megahertz to licensed operations, consisting of two 30 megahertz blocks in each of 51 major trading areas and one 30 megahertz block and three 10 megahertz blocks in each of 493 basic trading areas. Certain of the 30 megahertz basic trading area frequency blocks were split into 10 and 15 megahertz segments when the original licensees, unable to pay their installment payments in full to the FCC, returned part of their assigned spectrum to the FCC and it was subsequently reauctioned. Also ten megahertz of the 20 megahertz unlicensed block was redesignated for licensed advanced wireless service uses. Subject to some conditions, the FCC also permits licensees to split their licenses and assign a portion, on either a geographic or frequency basis, or both, to a third party.

The FCC also has allocated 90 MHz of Advanced Wireless Service spectrum (AWS-1) licensed as a 20 MHz Block in each of 734 metropolitan statistical and rural service areas, a 20 MHz Block and a 10 MHz Block in each of 176 designated Economic Areas and a 20 MHz Block and two 10 MHz Blocks in each of the 12 Regional Economic Area Groupings. These licenses were auctioned in 2006 by the FCC in Auction 66.  The FCC also has allocated 10 megahertz of AWS spectrum under a nationwide license which license was granted to Nextel Communications, Inc. in 2005.

Prior to January 1, 2003, no entity was allowed to have a controlling interest in more than 55 megahertz of cellular, personal communications service, or “covered” specialized mobile radio spectrum in a given major trading area or basic trading area. Cellular systems have 25 megahertz of spectrum, and personal communications service systems typically may have 10, 15, or 30 megahertz of spectrum. As of January 1, 2003, this “spectrum cap” has been eliminated, and the FCC now determines whether acquisition of wireless licenses is in the public interest on a case-by-case basis under criteria which are being developed on a case-by-case basis.

The completion of acquisitions involving the transfer of control of a wireless system requires prior FCC approval. Acquisitions of minority interests generally do not require FCC approval. Whenever FCC approval is required, any interested party may file a petition to dismiss or deny the application for approval of the proposed transfer. See “Other Recent FCC Developments” below for additional wireless service licensing actions.

Licensing—Facilities.  The FCC must be notified each time an additional cell site for a cellular system is constructed which enlarges the service area of a given cellular market. The height and power of base stations in wireless systems are regulated by FCC rules, as are the types of signals emitted by these stations. The FCC also imposes a requirement that all wireless licensees register and obtain FCC registration numbers for all of their antenna towers which require prior Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) clearance. All new towers must be registered at the time of construction. All wireless towers of less than 10 meters in height, building-mounted antennas and wireless telephones must comply with radio frequency radiation guidelines. The FCC also regulates tower construction in accordance with its regulations, which carry out its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act and Historic Preservation Act. In October, 2004, the FCC adopted a Nationwide Programmatic Agreement which exempts certain new towers from historic preservation review, but imposes additional notification and approval requirements on carriers with respect to state historic preservation officers and Native American tribes with an interest in the tower’s location. In addition to regulation by the FCC, wireless systems are subject to certain FAA regulations with respect to the siting, construction, painting and lighting of wireless transmitter towers and antennas as well as local zoning requirements. U.S. Cellular believes that its facilities are in compliance with these requirements.

Licensing—Commercial Mobile Radio Service.  Pursuant to 1993 amendments to the Communications Act, cellular, personal communications and advanced wireless services are classified as commercial mobile radio service, in that they are services offered to the public for a fee and are interconnected to the public switched telephone network. The FCC has determined that it will not require such carriers to comply with a number of statutory provisions otherwise applicable to common carriers, such as the filing of tariffs.

All commercial mobile radio service wireless licensees must satisfy specified coverage requirements. Cellular licensees were required, during the five years following the initial grant of the respective license, to construct their systems to provide service (at a specified signal strength) to the territory encompassed by their service area. Failure to provide such coverage resulted in reduction of the relevant license area by the FCC. All 30 megahertz block personal communications service licensees must construct facilities that provide coverage to one-third of the population of the service area within five years of the initial license grants and to two-thirds of the population within ten years. All other licensees and certain 10 and 15 megahertz block licensees must construct facilities that provide coverage to one-fourth of the population of the licensed area or “make a showing of substantial service in their license area” within five years of the original license grants. Licensees that fail to meet the coverage requirements may be subject to forfeiture of the license.

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In a rulemaking proceeding concluded in July of 2004, the FCC amended its rules to add a substantial service option alternative for 30 megahertz block personal communications service licensees to the service specific construction benchmarks already available to these licensees.  These rules, which took effect on February 14, 2005, give carriers greater flexibility to provide service based on the needs of individual customers and their own unique business plans.

Cellular and personal communications service licenses are granted for ten-year periods. AWS-1 spectrum licenses granted before December 31, 2009 have a fifteen-year term. The FCC has established standards for conducting comparative renewal proceedings between a cellular licensee seeking renewal of its license and challengers filing competing applications. The FCC has (i) established criteria for comparing the renewal applicant to challengers, including the standards under which a renewal expectancy will be granted to the applicant seeking license renewal; (ii) established basic qualifications standards for challengers; and (iii) provided procedures for preventing possible abuses in the comparative renewal process. The FCC has concluded that it will award a renewal expectancy if the licensee has (i) provided “substantial” performance, which is defined as “sound, favorable and substantially above a level of mediocre service just minimally justifying renewal;” and (ii) complied with FCC rules, policies and the Communications Act.  A majority of geographically licensed services, including personal communications services licensees also are afforded a similar renewal expectancy.  If renewal expectancy is awarded to an existing licensee, its license is renewed and competing applications are not considered. All of U.S. Cellular’s licenses which it applied to have renewed between 1995 and 2006 have been renewed.

All of U.S. Cellular’s approximately 1,100 FCC licenses for the microwave radio stations it used to link its cell sites with each other and with its mobile telephone switching offices were required to be renewed in 2001. All of those licenses were renewed for ten-year terms. All newly obtained microwave licenses receive ten-year terms as well. Over the next few years, due to the licensing of new satellite and other services in the relevant frequency bands, it is likely that certain of U.S. Cellular’s remaining microwave facilities will need to be shifted to other frequencies. It is anticipated that those changes will be made without affecting service to customers and that the cost of such changes will not be significant.

U.S. Cellular conducts and plans to conduct its operations in accordance with all relevant FCC rules and regulations and anticipates being able to qualify for renewal expectancy in its upcoming renewal filings. Accordingly, U.S. Cellular believes that current regulations will have no significant effect on the renewal of its licenses. However, changes in the regulation of wireless operators or their activities and of other mobile service providers could have a material adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s operations.

E-911.  There are certain ongoing regulatory proceedings before the FCC which are of particular importance to the wireless industry. In one proceeding, the FCC has imposed enhanced wireless 911, or E-911, regulations on wireless carriers. The rules require wireless carriers to provide increasingly detailed information about the location of E-911 callers in two phases. The obligation of a wireless carrier to provide this information is triggered by a qualifying request from state or local public safety agencies that handle 911 calls in the markets served by the wireless carrier. In phase one, which has been required since April 1998, wireless carriers are required to identify the location of the cell site from which a wireless call has been made and the E-911 caller’s phone number. U.S. Cellular has provided this information on a timely basis in compliance with the FCC’s rules in most but not all of its markets.

In phase two, which has been required since October 2001, wireless carriers were required to have the capability to provide an E-911 caller’s specific location information within six months of receiving a qualifying request for such capability from a state or local public safety agency that handles 911 calls.  In July 2002, the FCC released an order that delayed until March 1, 2003, the deadline by which certain medium-sized wireless carriers, including U.S. Cellular, were required to provide phase two information to qualifying state or local public safety agencies.  U.S. Cellular is in compliance with the revised phase two E-911 requirements in most of its markets. However, there is no guarantee that U.S. Cellular will not be subject to sanctions, including monetary forfeitures, for failure to comply with the FCC’s phase one or phase two E-911 requirements in all of its markets.

In addition, by an order issued in 2002, the FCC’s E-911 rules required that 100 percent of all new digital handsets sold or otherwise activated by wireless carriers, including U.S. Cellular, be Global Positioning System-capable by May 30, 2004.  The FCC’s E-911 rules also required that 95 percent of all handsets in use on U.S. Cellular’s network be GPS-capable by December 31, 2005; in December 2005, U.S. Cellular filed a request for a limited waiver of the FCC’s 95 percent requirement.  Since filing its initial waiver request, U.S. Cellular voluntarily submitted two different supplements to the waiver request that reported its progress toward meeting the 95 percent requirement.  The most recent supplement reported that, as of September 30, 2006, U.S. Cellular’s overall GPS-capable handset penetration was 94.48 percent.

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On January 5, 2007, the FCC released orders denying the 95 percent GPS-capable handset penetration waivers of nine wireless carriers, including U.S. Cellular (“FCC Order”).  The FCC Order denying U.S. Cellular’s handset penetration waiver imposed periodic reporting obligations on U.S. Cellular with respect to its (i) progress towards achieving the 95 percent penetration requirement, and (ii) receipt and disposition of phase two E-911 requests from local public safety agencies.  The FCC Order also referred this matter to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau for possible further action, which could include the assessment of monetary forfeitures.  On January 19, 2007, as required by the FCC Order, U.S. Cellular filed a certification with the FCC confirming that its overall GPS-capable handset penetration exceeded 95 percent some time during the fourth quarter of 2006.  In addition, on February 5, 2007, U.S. Cellular submitted a Petition for Reconsideration of the FCC Order.  However, there is no guarantee that U.S. Cellular will not be subject to sanctions, including monetary forfeitures, for failure to comply with the FCC’s E-911 handset penetration rule.

Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act.   Under a 1994 federal law, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (“CALEA”), all telecommunications carriers, including U.S. Cellular and other wireless licensees, have been required to implement certain equipment changes necessary to assist law enforcement authorities in achieving an enhanced ability to conduct electronic surveillance of those suspected of criminal activity. U.S. Cellular is now substantially in compliance with the requirements of such act. In May 2006, the FCC issued an order reaffirming the applicability of CALEA’s packet data requirements to wireless carriers and applying all its CALEA requirements to Voice Over Internet Protocol (“VOIP”) and broadband Internet access providers. The deadline for wireless carriers’ compliance with the packet data requirements as well as for VOIP and facilities-based broadband compliance with CALEA is May 14, 2007. U.S. Cellular is making its best efforts to comply with this deadline but its ability to do so may be affected by availability of CALEA-compliant equipment and uncertain FCC interpretations of the relevant rules.

Pending ProceedingsReciprocal Compensation.   Since 1996, FCC rules generally have required symmetrical and reciprocal compensation, that is, payment at the same rate, for interconnecting wireless and local exchange facilities.  Asymmetrical rates can be set if carrier costs justify such rates. In the absence of an order by a state public utilities commission establishing carrier interconnection costs, rates can be set in accordance with FCC default ”proxy” rates or carriers may agree not to compensate each other, a so called “bill and keep” arrangement. The states have jurisdiction over such interconnection proceedings. In February 2005, the FCC adopted an order finding that state ”wireless termination tariffs,” which certain local wireline carriers had sought to impose in the absence of interconnection agreements with wireless carriers, were unlawful. The order applied prospectively and required the negotiation of interconnection agreements to set rates. It also clarified that wireline carriers may request such agreements from wireless carriers, as well as vice versa, which had not been clear under the rules.

The FCC currently is considering changes to the entire system of intercarrier compensation, of which wireless-wireline interconnection is a part. It is not possible to predict with certainty the results of that proceeding but it is likely that the FCC will require increased emphasis on cost-based charges and, thus, that there would be fewer rate based subsidies for local exchange carriers, including those contained in interstate “access charges,” which wireless carriers also must pay on calls to wireline carriers deemed to be “interstate” under the FCC’s rules. Such a result would be favorable to wireless carriers.

Pending Proceedings — Automatic Roaming.   In November, 2005, comments were filed concerning whether the FCC should adopt a rule requiring wireless carriers to allow other wireless carriers’ customers to “roam” on their systems “automatically,” that is, by prior agreement between carriers.  It is argued that, without this protection, smaller and regional carriers will be at a competitive disadvantage relative to the national carriers.  An FCC decision is expected in 2007.

Pending Proceedings — Truth in Billing.   On March 18, 2005, the FCC released an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) which adopted rules to regulate the wording of wireless carrier bills but did not adopt the more extensive rules requested by the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (“NASUCA”). The order also preempted state regulation of wireless billing. The NPRM, upon which the FCC has not acted, will impose additional requirements on wireless billing. The order became effective on August 25, 2005, and has been the subject of an appeal by NASUCA and other parties. In July 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the FCC and set aside its order in a decision later upheld by that court on reconsideration. It is likely that the FCC will seek Supreme Court review. If the Supreme Court does not grant review or it upholds the Eighth Circuit, overlapping and conflicting state regulation of wireless bills will be permitted, a result unfavorable to wireless carriers.

Pending Proceedings — Early Termination Fees.   On May 18, 2005, the FCC issued two public notices seeking comment on whether wireless “early termination fees” are to be considered a “rate” under Section 332 of the Act and, thus, exempt from state regulation and/or state consumer class action or other lawsuits.  FCC action is expected in 2007, and it would be in the interest of wireless carriers for the FCC to rule that such fees are, in fact, a wireless “rate.”

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Pending Proceedings — Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”).   FCC rules require all carriers to safeguard the CPNI of their customers and prevent its disclosure to any person not authorized by the customer to possess such information. CPNI is information relating to a customer’s telephone usage, such as numbers called and numbers from which calls were received. Wireless carriers may themselves use CPNI to market additional wireless services to customers without their prior consent but must obtain such consent to market non-wireless services. The CPNI issue has become prominent recently in light of disclosures of unauthorized persons coming into possession, through fraudulent means, of the customer telephone records of certain wireless carriers and then selling such information. The FCC and United States Congress are now considering additional regulatory and legislative action to safeguard CPNI. In December 2006, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation making “pretexting,” that is, fraudulently obtaining CPNI without customer consent, a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. On April 2, 2007, the FCC released new rules creating safeguards for CPNI, which will take effect six months following their publication in the Federal Register. U.S. Cellular has had procedures in place to protect customer CPNI from unauthorized disclosure in the past, but has updated those procedures to ensure compliance with all relevant CPNI requirements.

Pending Proceedings — Migratory Birds.   For some years, conservation groups have sought FCC action concerning the alleged harm done by FCC licensed towers to migratory birds. The FCC has not acted on these requests. On April 12, 2006, the FCC denied a request from those groups that it require the preparation of retroactive environmental assessments for thousands of towers previously constructed in the Gulf Coast region. In November 2006, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments and reply comments, due in April and May of 2007, regarding possible new rules to prevent harm to birds from FCC-licensed towers. Efforts are underway to arrive at compromise rules. However, action by the FCC to restrict tower construction owing to concern over migratory birds would be unfavorable to U.S. Cellular and other wireless carriers.

Pending Proceedings — Universal Service.   The Telecommunications Act establishes principles and a process for implementing a modified “universal service” policy. This policy seeks nationwide, affordable service and access to advanced telecommunications and information services. It calls for reasonably comparable urban and rural rates and services. The Telecommunications Act also requires universal service to schools, libraries and rural health facilities at discounted rates. Wireless carriers must provide such discounted rates to such organizations in accordance with federal regulations. The FCC has implemented the mandate of the Telecommunications Act to create a universal service support mechanism “to ensure that all Americans have access to telecommunications services.” The Telecommunications Act requires all interstate telecommunications providers, including wireless service providers, to “make an equitable and non-discriminatory contribution” to support the cost of providing universal service, unless their contribution would be de minimis. At present, the provision of landline and wireless telephone service in high cost areas is subsidized by support from the “universal service” fund, to which, as noted above, all carriers with interstate and international revenues must contribute. Such payments, which were based on a percentage of the total “billed revenue” of carriers for a given previous period of time, began in 1998.

Since February 2003, such payments have been based on estimates of future revenues. Previously, these payments were based on historical revenues. Carriers are free to pass such charges on to their customers. Wireless carriers are also eligible to receive universal service support payments in certain circumstances if they provide specified services in “high cost” areas. U.S. Cellular has sought designation as an “eligible telecommunications carrier” qualified to receive universal service support in certain states, has been designated as such a carrier in the states of Washington, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma, Maine, and Kansas and has received payments for services provided to high cost areas within those states.

In 2006, U.S. Cellular paid over $80 million in contributions into the fund and received $71.0 million in high cost support payments for its service to high cost areas in the states referred to above.  On May 1, 2007,  a Federal-State Joint Board considering universal service issues recommended to the FCC that it impose an “interim, emergency cap” on the total amount of high cost support that competitive eligible telecommunications carriers may receive for each state.  The cap would be based on the support such carriers were receiving at the end of 2006 in a given state.  If a state was not receiving any support for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers at the end of 2006, it could not receive any support during the time the cap was in place.  The Joint Board also recommended that the cap last for eighteen months while the FCC considered other measures for reforming high cost universal service support mechanisms and stated that it would make further policy recommendations to the FCC within six months.  The FCC has sought public comment on the interim cap proposal and on the additional recommendations the Joint Board is considering.  If adopted by the FCC, the cap would be detrimental to U.S. Cellular and other wireless carriers receiving high cost universal service support as it would diminish the amount of support they would have been otherwise eligible to receive had the cap not been imposed.

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Pending Proceedings — Spectrum.   In January 2000, pursuant to a congressional directive, the FCC adopted service rules for licensing the commercial use of 30 megahertz of spectrum in the 747-762 megahertz and 777-792 megahertz spectrum bands. Subsequently, the FCC adopted service rules for the 688-746 megahertz band, portions of which were auctioned in 2002 and 2003. Those rules provided that a majority of the spectrum in these bands would be auctioned in large regional service areas, although there were portions available which cover individual metropolitan statistical area and rural service area markets. The FCC has conducted two auctions for such metropolitan statistical area and rural service area licensed spectrum and certain other portions of the 688-746 megahertz spectrum which ended in September 2002 and June 2003, respectively. An additional auction to license the remaining unauctioned 700 megahertz spectrum could commence in the third quarter of 2007.

In April of 2006, Cyren Call Communications Corporation (“Cyren Call”) requested the FCC to initiate proceedings to reallocate 30 MHz of commercial 700 MHz spectrum proposed to be auctioned in 2007 to be used for a single, nationwide, broadband network with the authorization issued to a single licensee known as the Public Safety Broadband Trust (“Trust”). The Trust would be required to lease capacity on this 700 MHz spectrum to commercial operators who will fund network infrastructure deployment in exchange for the opportunity to serve commercial subscribers on the substantial amounts of network capacity not being used by public safety. In November of 2006, the FCC dismissed the Cyren Call Petition stating that the relief requested by Cyren Call is contrary to the terms of DTV Transition legislation adopted in February of 2006. Cyren Call has continued to mount regulatory and legislative challenges to this FCC dismissal.

In August of 2006, the FCC solicited public comment on changes in service area sizes and band plans in preparation for its upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction. It also proposed modifications to the technical, performance, renewal and E911/Hearing Aid compatibility requirements which could apply to licenses in the 700 MHz and other CMRS bands. The FCC also proposed rules changes potentially applicable in CMRS bands relating to partition/disaggregation, spectrum leasing and competitive bidding rules to promote spectrum aggregation and new entry, to encourage new and expanded service in rural areas and to create new incentives for expanded services in Native American Tribal areas.

In September of 2006, the FCC initiated proceedings to consider changes in its service and technical rules for the 700 MHz band that may provide greater flexibility to incumbent commercial licensees in previously auctioned portions of such band. In December of 2006, it also commenced proceedings possibly to assign 12 megahertz of public safety spectrum in such band on a nationwide basis to a single national public safety broadband licensee which licensee will be permitted to provide preemptible access to such assigned spectrum to commercial service providers on a secondary basis, through leases or in the form of public/private partnerships.

Other Recent FCC Developments.   In October of 2006, the FCC confirmed that it intended to expand competition in the broadband sector by opening up underutilized television broadcast spectrum for new low power fixed and personal/portable uses. The FCC left open important issues to be addressed in rulemaking proceedings such as how low power devices might be used on TV channels without causing harmful interference to broadcast incumbents and whether such low power uses should be provided on an unlicensed or a licensed basis.

Telecommunications Act — General.   The primary purpose and effect of the Telecommunications Act is to open all telecommunications markets to competition. The Telecommunications Act makes most direct or indirect state and local barriers to competition unlawful. It directs the FCC to preempt all inconsistent state and local laws and regulations, after notice and comment proceedings. It also enables electric and other utilities to engage in telecommunications service through qualifying subsidiaries.

Only narrow powers over wireless carriers are left to state and local authorities. Each state retains the power to impose competitively neutral requirements that are consistent with the Telecommunications Act’s universal service provisions and necessary for universal services, public safety and welfare, continued service quality and consumer rights. While a state may not impose requirements that effectively function as barriers to entry, it retains limited authority to regulate certain competitive practices in rural telephone company service areas.

In May 2003, the FCC adopted new spectrum leasing policies which permit licensees of cellular, personal communications service, and specialized mobile radio spectrum, among other bands, to lease to third parties any amount of spectrum in any geographic area encompassed by their licenses, and for any period of time not extending beyond the current term of the license. The FCC has also adopted streamlined processing rules for applications for assignment and transfer of control of telecommunications carrier licenses. These new rules and policies were expanded and clarified by the FCC in July of 2004 to permit spectrum leasing in additional wireless services, to streamline processing of spectrum leasing applications as well as traditional license transfers and assignments and to establish new categories of spectrum leasing arrangements.

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State and Local Regulation.   U.S. Cellular is also subject to state and local regulation in some instances. In 1981, the FCC preempted the states from exercising jurisdiction in the areas of licensing, technical standards and market structure. In 1993, Congress preempted states from regulating the entry of wireless systems into service and the rates charged by wireless systems to customers. The siting and construction of wireless facilities, including transmitter towers, antennas and equipment shelters are still subject to state or local zoning and land use regulations. However, in 1996, Congress amended the Communications Act to provide that states could not discriminate against wireless carriers in tower zoning proceedings and had to decide on zoning requests with reasonable speed. In addition, states may still regulate other terms and conditions of wireless service.

In 2000, the FCC ruled that the preemption provisions of the Communications Act do not preclude the states from acting under state tort, contract, and consumer protection laws to regulate the practices of commercial mobile radio service carriers, even if such activities might have an incidental effect on wireless rates. This ruling has led to more state regulation of commercial mobile radio service carriers, particularly from the standpoint of consumer protection. U.S. Cellular intends to vigorously defend its activities in this regard.

The FCC is required to forbear from applying any statutory or regulatory provision that is not necessary to keep telecommunications rates and terms reasonable or to protect consumers. A state may not apply a statutory or regulatory provision that the FCC decides to forbear from applying. In addition, the FCC must review its telecommunications regulations every two years and change any that are no longer necessary. Further, the FCC is empowered under certain circumstances to preempt state regulatory authorities if a state is obstructing the Communications Act’s basic purposes.

U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries have been and intend to remain active participants in proceedings before the FCC and state regulatory authorities. Proceedings with respect to the foregoing policy issues before the FCC and state regulatory authorities could have a significant impact on the competitive market structure among wireless providers and the relationships between wireless providers and other carriers. U.S. Cellular is unable to predict the scope, pace or financial impact of policy changes which could be adopted in these proceedings.

Radio Frequency Emissions.   The FCC has adopted rules specifying standards and the methods to be used in evaluating radio frequency emissions from radio equipment, including network equipment and handsets used in connection with commercial mobile radio service. These rules were upheld on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Second Circuit’s ruling. U.S. Cellular’s network facilities and the handsets it sells to customers comply with these standards.

On December 7, 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld in EMR Network v. FCC, the FCC’s current requirements regarding radio frequency emissions and held that the FCC was not obliged to commence inquiry into the non-thermal effects of radio frequency emissions.   The court also evaluated the studies relied upon by the plaintiffs and concluded they were insufficient.  The FCC however, is considering changes in its rules regarding human exposure to radio frequency magnetic fields in a separate proceeding.

Media reports have suggested that radio frequency emissions from handsets, wireless data devices and cell sites may raise various health concerns, including cancer or tumors, and may interfere with various electronic medical devices, including hearing aids and pacemakers. Although some studies have suggested that radio frequency emissions may cause certain biological effects, most of the expert reviews conducted to date have concluded that the evidence does not support a finding of adverse health effects but that further research is appropriate. Research and studies are ongoing.

These concerns over radio frequency emissions may discourage the use of handsets and wireless data devices and may result in significant restrictions on the location and operation of cell sites, all of which could have a material adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s results of operations. Several class action and single-plaintiff lawsuits have been filed against several other wireless service operators and several wireless phone manufacturers, asserting product liability, breach of warranty and other claims relating to radio frequency transmissions to and from handsets and wireless data devices. The lawsuits seek substantial monetary damages as well as injunctive relief.

One important case in which the plaintiff alleged that his brain tumor had been caused by his wireless telephone use, Newman v. Verizon et al., was dismissed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland in October 2002. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal in October 2003, upholding the lower court’s decision that plaintiff had failed to produce admissible scientific evidence that mobile phone use causes brain cancer.

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Several other cases alleging injury are pending as are class action cases alleging that wireless telephones increase the risk of adverse health effects unless they are used with headsets.  In March 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision in the case of Pinney v. Nokia, et al., which had dismissed five class action lawsuits alleging that the wireless industry had endangered consumers by selling mobile phones without headsets.  The court found that the federal court did not have jurisdiction over the claims in four of the cases and held that the state law claims were not pre-empted by federal law in the fifth case. In October, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Fourth Circuit decision.

Subsequently, four of the cases were remanded to state courts in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia where they were filed. Thereafter, plaintiffs amended their complaints in two of the cases to add new defendants and those defendants removed the cases to federal court under the provisions of the newly enacted Class Action Reform Act. Plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed all but one of the putative class action cases. That case has been transferred from the federal district court in Philadelphia to the federal district court in Maryland where motions to dismiss are pending. Also following the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Pinney, the FCC was granted leave to participate as amicus curiae in a case alleging a brain injury from use of a wireless phone and has filed a brief indicating the agency’s disagreement with the preemption aspect of that decision.

There can be no assurance that the outcome of these or other lawsuits will not have a material adverse effect on the wireless industry, including U.S. Cellular. U.S. Cellular carries insurance with respect to such matters, but there is no assurance that such insurance would be sufficient, will continue to be available or will not be cost-prohibitive in the future.

Competition

U.S. Cellular competes directly with several wireless communication service providers in each of its markets. In general, there are between three and five competitors in each wireless market, excluding numerous mobile virtual network operators (which are types of resellers which purchase blocks of mobile telephone numbers from an operational system and then resell them to the public). U.S. Cellular generally competes against each of the near-nationwide wireless companies: Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile USA Inc. However, not all of these competitors operate in each market where U.S. Cellular does business. These competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, marketing, sales, purchasing and distribution resources than U.S. Cellular.

The use of national advertising and promotional programs by the near-national wireless operators may be a source of additional competitive and pricing pressures in all U.S. Cellular markets, even if those operators may not provide service in a particular market. U.S. Cellular provides wireless services comparable to the national competitors, but the other wireless companies operate in a wider geographic area and are able to offer no- or low-cost roaming and long-distance calling packages over a wider area on their own networks than U.S. Cellular can offer on its network. If U.S. Cellular offers the same calling area as one of these competitors, U.S. Cellular will incur roaming charges for calls made in portions of the calling area which are not part of its network, thereby increasing its cost of operations.

In the Midwest, U.S. Cellular’s largest contiguous service area, U.S. Cellular can offer larger regional service packages without incurring significant roaming charges than it is able to offer in other parts of its network. U.S. Cellular also employs a customer satisfaction strategy throughout its markets which it believes has contributed to a relatively low churn rate and has had a positive impact on its cost to acquire and serve customers.

Some of U.S. Cellular’s competitors bundle other services, such as landline telephone service, internet access and television service with their wireless communications services, which U.S. Cellular either does not have the ability to offer or has chosen not to offer.

In addition, U.S. Cellular competes against both larger and smaller regional wireless companies in certain areas, including ALLTEL (which acquired Western Wireless Corporation in 2005 and Midwest Wireless Holdings in 2006), Rural Cellular Corporation, and resellers of wireless services. Since each of these competitors operates on systems using spectrum licensed by the FCC and has comparable technology and facilities, competition for customers among these systems in each market is principally on the basis of quality of service, price, size of area covered, services offered and responsiveness of customer service. ALLTEL’s acquisition of these two companies has likely increased this competitor’s access to financial, technical, marketing, sales, purchasing and distribution resources.

Since U.S. Cellular’s competitors do not disclose their subscriber counts in specific regional service areas, market share for the competitors in each regional market cannot be precisely determined.

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The FCC’s rules require all operational wireless systems to provide, on a nondiscriminatory basis, wireless service to resellers. Certain of these resellers, mobile virtual network operators such as Virgin Mobile and Qwest Corporation, have grown substantial customer bases through the leveraging of existing brand names and have proven to be competitive with U.S. Cellular in certain of its operating markets. Others, such as Disney Corporation, use or plan to use their brand recognition and access to content to compete in the wireless arena. Most of these mobile virtual network operators utilize the near-nationwide wireless companies’ networks and roaming agreements to provide their service.

Although less directly a substitute for other wireless services, wireless data services, such as WiFi and related WiMAX and paging services, may be adequate for those who do not need wide-area roaming or full two-way voice services. Technological advances or regulatory changes in the future may make available other alternatives to wireless service, thereby creating additional sources of competition.

Continuing technological advances in the communications field make it difficult to predict the extent of additional future competition for wireless systems. For example, the FCC has allocated radio channels to mobile satellite systems in which transmissions from mobile units to satellites would augment or replace transmissions to cell sites. Such systems are designed primarily to serve the communications needs of remote locations, and mobile satellite systems could provide viable competition for land-based wireless systems in such areas. Some initial deployments have been made and service is now being provided in certain areas. It is also possible that the FCC may in the future assign additional frequencies to wireless telephone service or enhanced specialized mobile radio service to provide for more competitors in each market.

 

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TDS Telecom Operations

Overview

TDS’s wireline telephone operations are conducted through TDS Telecom and its subsidiaries. TDS Telecom is a wholly owned subsidiary of TDS. TDS Telecom’s corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wisconsin. TDS Telecom is a holding company that, through its affiliates, provides high-quality telecommunication services, including full-service local exchange service, long distance telephone service, data services, and Internet access, to rural and suburban communities. TDS Telecom has 111 telephone company subsidiaries that are incumbent local exchange carriers. An incumbent local exchange carrier is an independent local telephone company that formerly had the exclusive right and responsibility to provide local transmission and switching services in its designated service territory. TDS Telecom served approximately 757,300 equivalent access lines in 28 states through its incumbent local exchange carrier subsidiaries at December 31, 2006.

TDS Telecom subsidiaries also provide telecommunications services as a competitive local exchange carrier in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota (including Minneapolis/St. Paul), and Wisconsin (including Madison and Milwaukee) under the TDS Metrocom brand name. Competitive local exchange carrier is a term describing companies that enter the operating areas of incumbent local exchange carriers to offer local exchange and other telephone services. TDS Telecom served approximately 456,200 equivalent access lines through its competitive local exchange carrier subsidiaries at December 31, 2006, an increase from 448,600 at December 31, 2005.

The table below sets forth, as of December 31, 2006, the ten largest states of TDS Telecom’s operations based on the number of equivalent access lines and the total number of equivalent access lines operated by all of the telephone subsidiaries of TDS Telecom.

 

State

 

 

 

Number of Equivalent
Access Lines at
December 31, 2006

 

% of Total

 

Wisconsin

 

391,200

 

32.2

%

Michigan

 

152,500

 

12.6

%

Minnesota

 

118,900

 

9.8

%

Tennessee

 

116,500

 

9.6

%

Georgia

 

61,400

 

5.1

%

New Hampshire

 

41,600

 

3.4

%

Indiana

 

37,800

 

3.1

%

Illinois

 

32,300

 

2.7

%

Alabama

 

29,200

 

2.4

%

Maine

 

28,700

 

2.4

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total for 10 Largest States

 

1,010,100

 

83.3

%

Other States

 

203,400

 

16.7

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

1,213,500

 

100.0

%

 

Each TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carrier provides consumers and businesses with landline local telephone service through its switching and intra-city network. Long distance or toll service is provided through connections with long distance carriers which purchase network access from the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers and by TDS Telecom’s own long distance unit that resells long distance service in its incumbent local exchange carrier markets. The long distance unit served 340,000 long distance access lines at December 31, 2006, and 321,500 at December 31, 2005.

Future growth in telephone operations is expected to be derived from providing service to new or presently underserved customers, expanding service in the areas currently served by TDS Telecom, upgrading existing customers to higher grades of service and increasing penetration of services. Additionally, growth may be derived from new services made possible by advances in technology, and the acquisition or development of additional incumbent local exchange carrier and competitive local exchange carrier operations.

TDS Telecom is committed to offering its customers a full complement of wired telecommunications services and bundles of those services in customer friendly packages to provide a single source for its customers’ telecommunication needs. TDS Telecom intends to provide its customers with expanded communications products and services covering their local, long distance, Internet and data needs.

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The following table summarizes certain information regarding TDS Telecom’s incumbent local exchange carrier (“ILEC”) and competitive local exchange carrier (“CLEC”) telephone and Internet operations:

 

 

 

Year Ended or At December 31,

 

 

 

2006

 

2005

 

2004

 

2003

 

2002

 

 

 

(Dollars in thousands)

 

ILEC Equivalent Access Lines (1)

 

757,300

 

735,300

 

730,400

 

722,200

 

711,200

 

% Residential

 

75.7

%

75.4

%

74.8

%

74.6

%

74.9

%

% Business (nonresidential)

 

24.3

%

24.6

%

25.2

%

25.4

%

25.1

%

CLEC Equivalent Access Lines (1)

 

456,200

 

448,600

 

426,800

 

364,800

 

291,400

 

% Residential

 

33.9

%

36.0

%

38.1

%

37.2

%

41.5

%

% Business (nonresidential)

 

66.1

%

64.0

%

61.9

%

62.8

%

58.5

%

Dial-up Internet Customers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ILEC

 

77,100

 

90,700

 

101,300

 

112,900

 

117,600

 

CLEC

 

10,200

 

14,200

 

18,200

 

22,200

 

24,700

 

Digital Subscriber Line Customers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ILEC

 

105,100

 

65,500

 

41,900

 

23,600

 

9,100

 

CLEC

 

42,100

 

36,400

 

29,000

 

20,100

 

11,800

 

ILEC Long Distance Customers (2)

 

340,000

 

321,500

 

295,000

 

230,500

 

197,500

 

Consolidated:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total revenues

 

$

875,918

 

$

904,085

 

$

880,145

 

$

862,988

 

$

801,530

 

Depreciation and amortization expense

 

159,612

 

165,616

 

170,014

 

163,399

 

159,291

 

Operating income

 

128,856

 

160,725

 

37,070

 

151,287

 

105,408

 

Construction expenditures

 

130,434

 

124,610

 

138,247

 

139,218

 

168,405

 

Business segment assets

 

$

1,848,003

 

$

1,864,835

 

$

1,961,331

 

$

2,076,948

 

$

2,109,349

 

ILEC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total revenues

 

$

645,525

 

$

669,724

 

$

658,330

 

$

653,038

 

$

626,865

 

Depreciation and amortization expense

 

135,370

 

135,178

 

131,665

 

130,036

 

130,232

 

Operating income

 

129,994

 

168,933

 

183,178

 

177,144

 

167,651

 

Construction expenditures

 

113,179

 

97,493

 

103,069

 

111,924

 

116,486

 

Business segment assets

 

$

1,699,817

 

$

1,703,443

 

$

1,807,044

 

$

1,838,818

 

$

1,860,685

 

CLEC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total revenues

 

$

235,804

 

$

239,341

 

$

226,259

 

$

213,800

 

$

177,166

 

Depreciation and amortization expense

 

24,242

 

30,438

 

38,349

 

33,363

 

29,059

 

Operating (loss)

 

(1,138

)

(8,208

)

(146,108

)

(25,857

)

(62,243

)

Construction expenditures

 

17,255

 

27,117

 

35,178

 

27,294

 

51,919

 

Business segment assets

 

148,186

 

161,392

 

154,287

 

238,130

 

248,664

 

Intra-company Revenue Elimination

 

$

(5,411

)

$

(4,980

)

$

(4,444

)

$

(3,850

)

$

(2,501

)


(1)          An “access line” is a single or multi-party circuit between the customer’s establishment and the central switching office. Access line equivalents are derived by converting high capacity data lines to the estimated capacity of one switched access line.

(2)          Beginning January 1, 2004, long distance customers reflect those lines that have chosen TDS Telecom as their primary interexchange carrier. Prior to that, a count of customers was used.

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Business Strategy

TDS Telecom seeks to produce revenue growth in its incumbent local exchange carrier markets by providing its customers with state-of-the-art telecommunications solutions, maintaining high quality service and selectively acquiring local telephone companies. Management believes that TDS Telecom has a number of advantages as an incumbent local exchange carrier, including a modern network substantially upgraded to provide a variety of advanced calling and data services, a strong local presence and an established brand name. However, the competitive environment in the telecommunications industry has changed significantly as a result of technological advances, changing customer requirements and regulatory activities. In response to this challenging competitive environment, TDS Telecom’s business plan is designed for a full-service telecommunications company, including both incumbent and competitive local exchange carrier operations. The business plan provides for TDS Telecom to meet these challenges in several areas:

·                  Create a balanced approach to its portfolio of markets from suburban to very rural;

·                  Fortify existing markets with an emphasis on being the preferred broadband provider;

·                  Aggressively advocate public policy that recognizes the importance of rural telephony and data services;

·                  Introduce new products and services to strengthen its customer relationships and enhance its revenue streams;

·                  Drive substantial productivity gains to help achieve profitable growth;

·                  Develop clusters of operations which expand its geographic footprint in areas where it can best leverage existing assets.

Both incumbent local exchange carriers and competitive local exchange carriers are faced with significant challenges, including the industry decline in use of second lines by customers, competition from wireless and other wireline providers, changes in regulation, new technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol, and the uncertainty in the economy. These challenges could have a material adverse effect on the financial condition, results of operations and cash flows of TDS Telecom.

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Segment

 

TDS Telecom's goal is to be the preferred broadband provider in our chosen markets. As of September 30, 2006, TDS Telecom was the sixth largest non-Bell local exchange telephone company in the United States. This ranking was based on the number of telephone access lines served. All of TDS Telecom's access lines are served by digital switching technology, which, in conjunction with other technologies, allows TDS Telecom to offer additional premium services to its customers. These services include call forwarding, conference calling, caller identification (with and without name identification), selective call ringing and call waiting.

 

As operating companies of one of the major independent local (non-Bell) exchange holding companies in the United States, TDS Telecom's incumbent local exchange carriers provide both local telephone service, access to the long distance network for customers in their respective service areas and broadband service in their chosen markets. The incumbent local exchange carriers also provide directory advertising through a contract with another company, and billing and collection services to interexchange carriers. Interexchange carriers are telephone companies that are allowed to provide long distance telephone service between local exchange areas. TDS Telecom provides centralized administrative and support services to field operations from its corporate offices in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Core Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Business Objectives

 

TDS Telecom is focused on achieving three central strategic objectives: growth, market leadership, and profitability. Management believes that this strategy encompasses many components including: service and product, market and customer strategies; federal support revenues; acquisition plans; competitive environment; and construction and development. These facets of the business are all impacted by regulations imposed by the FCC and state regulatory authorities, as discussed below. Each component identified is discussed in detail below.

 

TDS Telecom's Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Retail Services

 

TDS Telecom's Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) retail presence includes 111 companies in 28 states. These companies serve both residential and business customers.  Approximately 76% of TDS Telecom's equivalent access lines serve residential customers and approximately 24% serve business customers. Retail customers are composed primarily of residential customers and businesses, government and institutional telecommunications users.

 

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The retail customer base is a mix of rural, small town and suburban customers, with concentrations in the Upper Midwest and the Southeast. Approximately 81% of TDS Telecom's ILEC retail customers are located in rural and small town areas, while the other 19% are located in more suburban markets. TDS Telecom's promotional and sales strategy for the retail customer consists of two major initiatives: building brand equity by creating awareness of the TDS Telecom brand name and using direct marketing to sell specific products and services. The more rural and diverse nature of TDS Telecom's markets has historically made direct marketing more effective than mass media such as radio and television. In addressing its consumer markets, TDS Telecom has made extensive and aggressive use of direct mail. It has been more selective, though still active, in the use of other alternative marketing channels such as telemarketing as a means of generating sales. Newspaper advertising is used as well. TDS Telecom continues to explore new ways of marketing to its customers, in particular, finding ways to better take advantage of the marketing capabilities of the Internet. Uniform branding has made the use of mass media more attractive, and TDS Telecom has increasingly incorporated these elements into its media mix.

 

Most ILEC business customers could be described as small to medium sized businesses or small office/home office customers. TDS Telecom focuses its marketing on information-intensive industries such as financial services, health services, realty, hotels and motels, education and government. TDS Telecom uses its direct sales force, targeted mailings, and telemarketing to sell products and services to the commercial markets, which are segmented into tiers based on size and strategic importance. Different sales and distribution channels are targeted at each segment. Account executives focus on the most profitable customers by staying in contact with them on a regular basis. TDS Telecom employs a performance based compensation plan for its account executives targeted at profitable revenue and customer satisfaction results.

 

TDS Telecom's wholesale presence involves a diverse customer base. Wholesale market services have traditionally provided a majority of TDS Telecom's revenues. TDS Telecom receives a significant amount of its incumbent local exchange carrier revenue from the sale of traditional wholesale services, such as access services and billing and collections services to the interexchange carriers. As a result, TDS Telecom continues to provide a high level of service to traditional interexchange carrier wholesale customers such as AT&T, MCI, Sprint and the Regional Bell Operating Companies. Recent and proposed regulatory changes and mergers discussed below may affect the sources of TDS Telecom's independent local exchange carriers' wholesale revenues.

 

The wholesale market focus is on access revenues. TDS Telecom's operating telephone subsidiaries receive access revenue as compensation for carrying interstate and intrastate long distance traffic on their networks. Access services, billing and collection services and other primarily traditional wholesale offerings generated $314 million, or approximately 51% of TDS Telecom's incumbent local exchange carrier revenue for the year ended December 31, 2006, compared to $346 million or approximately 52% in 2005. The interstate and intrastate access rates charged include the cost of providing service plus a fair rate of return, (see “Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Regulation” below).

 

The FCC's re-examination of all currently regulated forms of access and accompanying compensation is ongoing and the prospect for action is uncertain. The FCC is currently considering whether and how to reform the charges between carriers for use of each other's networks. See “Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Regulation”.

 

Where applicable and subject to state regulatory approval, TDS Telecom's incumbent local exchange subsidiaries utilize intrastate access tariffs and participate in intrastate revenue pools. However, many intrastate toll revenue pooling arrangements, formerly sources of substantial revenues to TDS Telecom's incumbent local exchange companies, were replaced with access charge based arrangements designed to generate revenue flows similar to those previously realized in the pooling process. While several states where TDS Telecom operates are considering ways to lower intrastate access rates, most have decided to forestall proceedings pending an FCC decision on the Missoula Plan.

 

Given the above-mentioned uncertainties for both interstate and intrastate access revenues, there can be no assurance that TDS Telecom will be able to obtain favorable adjustments in other rates to replace lost revenues. If TDS Telecom is unable to replace lost access charge revenues with increased revenues in other areas, this could have a material adverse effect on its financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

 

33




TDS Telecom’s Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Market Strategy

TDS Telecom has three primary strategic goals to grow and protect its markets. The goals are to build customer loyalty, grow revenues and control costs. Management of TDS Telecom believes it can achieve these goals by offering new and updated products and services. This will be achieved by:

·                  Providing superior customer service to customers;

·                  Building brand equity in the TDS brand name; and

·                  Creating value added packages and bundles.

Customer Service.  TDS Telecom distinguishes itself by the way customer service is offered to its retail customers. TDS Telecom operates independent local exchange carrier companies in 28 states with professional service representatives and field representatives who both live and work in many of the communities they serve.  In 2007, TDS Telecom will be focused on creating specialized customer service teams to more effectively and efficiently serve the individual needs of its consumer customer segment. TDS Telecom believes that its strengths in two key areas—value proposition and customer service—provide a fundamental competitive advantage for TDS Telecom.

Brand Equity.  TDS Telecom continued to build on the branding process by increasing its Internet web presence. TDS Telecom’s web site offers product and service information, company information, product/service ordering capability, electronic payment options and account management. TDS Telecom continues to leverage its sales and marketing messages through cost-effective public relations activities. For example, TDS Telecom is in partnership with collegiate athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Minnesota for advertising and signage throughout the sports complexes and other high traffic areas, which increases awareness of the company brand with customers and potential customers. Management of TDS Telecom believes that branding will increase the loyalty of its customers and reduce expenses through more cost-effective marketing.

Value Added Product Bundles and Packages.  Management of TDS Telecom believes that its consumer and business customers have a strong preference to purchase all of their telecommunications services from a single provider. TDS Telecom has found that by offering and bundling a full complement of telecommunications and video services in customer friendly packages, it can build customer loyalty and reduce customer churn. TDS Telecom offers bundles which include local telephone services, Internet services, long distance services and DISH satellite TV. TDS Telecom also continued expansion of its digital subscriber line markets and is considered the preferred high-speed Internet vendor in its high-speed data markets based on customer surveys.

TDS Telecom continued to expand its presence in the business data market with virtual private networks and Internet co-location products. A virtual private network provides connectivity between two points using the public Internet as the transport mechanism. Co-location provides customer web server hosting at a TDS Telecom facility, providing space for computer equipment, Internet bandwidth, and environmental facilities.

TDS Telecom has continued to grow its long distance product line and is the number one long distance provider in its ILEC territory.

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Markets Technology

In 2006, TDS Telecom continued its program of enhancing and expanding its service-providing network. TDS Telecom intends to meet competition by providing its customers with high-quality telecommunications services and building its network to take full advantage of advanced telecommunications technologies such as:

·                  Fiber optic fed digital serving areas. A digital serving area is a defined geographic area within an exchange that is served by a digital loop carrier system. The digital loop carrier system extends the data capability of the central office to the defined geographic area. Having this capability allows the expansion of services (such as higher data rates) to a greater number of customers located at a distance from the central office equipment;

·                  Digital subscriber lines, which use a technology that provides a high-speed data access channel between the customer’s computer and the equipment located at the central office. This technology is supported on ordinary copper telephone lines using a digital modem at the customer premise and a similar modem located at the central office or digital serving area; and

·                  Fiber to the premise lines, which use passive optic network technology to significantly increase the bandwidth to each household or business. TDS Telecom deploys fiber to the home in new construction subdivisions after analysis on an individual subdivision basis.

34




During 2006, TDS Telecom continued to launch digital subscriber line service in its markets, bringing total markets served to 118 at December 31, 2006. At that date the Company was able to provide DSL service to 82% of its access lines served.

As TDS Telecom continues to upgrade and expand its network, it is also standardizing equipment and processes to increase efficiency. For example, TDS Telecom utilizes centralized monitoring and management of its network to reduce costs and improve service reliability. Network standardization has assisted TDS Telecom in operating its 24-hours-a-day/7-days-per-week Network Management Center. The Network Management Center continuously monitors the network in an effort to proactively identify and correct network faults prior to any customer impact.

TDS Telecom’s expected incumbent local exchange carrier capital spending in 2007 is expected to be $95 million to $110 million, compared to actual capital expenditures of $113.2 million in 2006 and $97.5 million in 2005.

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Markets Competition

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 initiated a process of transformation in the telecommunications industry. Public policy has for some time embraced the dual objectives of universal service and competition for long distance services and, to a more limited extent, permitted some local service competition, for example, from wireless providers. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, however, established local competition as a national telecommunications policy. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires non-exempt incumbent local exchange carriers to provide “reasonable and non-discriminatory” interconnection services and access to unbundled network elements to any competitive local exchange carrier that seeks to enter the incumbent local exchange carrier’s market. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 also allows competitive local exchange carriers to collocate network equipment in incumbent local exchange carrier central offices and prevents incumbent local exchange carriers and competitive local exchange carriers from unduly restricting each other from the use of facilities or information that enable competition. The FCC has adopted rules implementing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and establishing the pricing policies that incumbent carriers are able to use to charge for interconnection and providing elements of the network, and those rules and pricing policies have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court.  However, because all of the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers are rural telephone companies, they currently remain exempt from the most burdensome market opening requirements (except for Mid-Plains Telephone, LLC in Wisconsin, which no longer is subject to the general rural exemption). See the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Regulation section below for a discussion on rural exemptions. The exemption rules, coupled with the challenging economics of competing in lower population density markets and the high service quality TDS Telecom provides, have delayed wireline competitive local exchange carriers’ competitive entry into most of TDS Telecom’s incumbent local exchange markets. TDS Telecom, however, has experienced some reductions in physical access lines, due in part to removal of second lines and in part to competition from cable providers which offer voice telephone service on high-speed Internet service via cable modems (Voice over Internet Protocol), from wireless carriers which offer nationwide calling plans, and from other Voice over Internet Protocol providers. TDS Telecom continues to actively deploy its own high-speed Internet product offering (digital subscriber line service) in its markets to meet its customers’ broadband needs. The FCC recently reclassified digital subscriber line service as an information service, which gives TDS Telecom regulatory flexibility in providing this service. The FCC also classified cable modem service as an information service, and is currently considering a similar classification for wireless broadband service.

TDS Telecom expects competition in the telecommunications industry to continue to develop in the coming years. Wireless service providers will continue to compete in TDS Telecom’s markets, and it is anticipated they will continue to be classified as competitive eligible telecommunications carriers allowing them to receive universal service support based on the costs of an incumbent local carrier serving a market which receives high cost support. TDS Telecom also anticipates increased competition from cable providers in certain markets, which represents a significant change in the competitive landscape that may pose a serious challenge to TDS Telecom’s operations. TDS Telecom’s strategy for retaining and growing its incumbent local exchange carrier equivalent access line and customer base is to build customer loyalty by 1) providing superior service quality and customer care, 2) capitalizing on its local presence in the communities it serves, and 3) offering a suite of products and services bundled in response to customer preferences. There can be no assurance that TDS Telecom’s strategy will be successful.

35




Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Regulation

TDS Telecom subsidiaries are primarily incumbent local exchange carriers, the traditional regulated local telephone companies in their communities. TDS Telecom’s incumbent local exchange subsidiaries are regulated by federal and state regulatory agencies and TDS Telecom seeks to maintain positive relationships with these regulators. Rates, including local rates and intrastate access charges, continue to be subject to state commission approval in many states. The regulators also establish and oversee implementation of the provisions of the federal and state telecommunications laws, including interconnection requirements, universal service obligations, promotion of competition, and the deployment of advanced services. The regulators enforce these provisions with orders and sometimes financial penalties.  TDS Telecom will continue to pursue desired changes in rate structures and regulation to attempt to maintain affordable rates and reasonable earnings.

TDS Telecom has also elected alternative forms of regulation for its subsidiaries in several states and will continue to pursue alternative regulation for the remaining subsidiaries. For those subsidiaries where alternative regulation is elected, TDS Telecom will need to ensure compliance within the constraints imposed, while taking advantage of the opportunities afforded under alternative regulation. The possibility exists, however, that regulators may re-regulate these subsidiaries under traditional rate-of-return regulation if they determine that it is no longer appropriate to regulate them under alternative regulation.  While subsidiaries in those states under alternative regulation will not face as much regulatory scrutiny of their earnings, the subsidiaries in the remaining states will continue to file rate cases and face earnings reviews by the state regulatory commissions. Over the next several years, TDS Telecom will continue to manage these planned traditional rate cases, as well as respond to commission initiated earnings reviews. Furthermore, other regulatory issues will need to be addressed, such as responding to the financial impacts of any universal service and access charge reform, regulation of new competitors (e.g. Voice over Internet Protocol and cable providers) and changes to other industry compensation mechanisms.

For the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange companies, state regulators must generally approve rate adjustments, service areas, service standards and accounting methods, and are authorized to limit the return on capital based upon allowable levels. In some states, construction plans, borrowing, depreciation rates, affiliated charge transactions and certain other financial transactions are also subject to regulatory approval. States traditionally designated a single incumbent local exchange carrier as the universal service provider in a local market and then regulated the entry of additional competing providers into the same local market. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, however, has largely pre-empted state authority over market entry. While a state may not impose requirements that effectively function as barriers to entry, and the FCC must pre-empt challenged state requirements if they impose such barriers to entry, a state still retains authority to regulate competitive practices in rural telephone company service areas.

Most of the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange companies participate in both the National Exchange Carrier Association interstate common line and traffic sensitive access charge tariffs. Many of TDS Telecom’s incumbent local exchange carriers also participate in the access revenue pools administered by the FCC-supervised National Exchange Carrier Association, which collects and distributes the revenues from interstate access charges. The FCC retains minimal regulatory oversight over interstate toll rates and other issues relating to interstate telephone service, but continues to regulate the interstate access system.

On November 8, 2001, the FCC issued an order that changed interstate access rates for rate-of-return regulated incumbent local exchange carriers including the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers. The changes reduced per minute access charges paid by long distance carriers and raised business and residential subscriber line charges. To implement one of the provisions in the Telecommunications Act through this order, the FCC removed “implicit support” from the access charge system, implemented a new universal service fund and preserved the current 11.25% interstate rate of return.

The FCC and the telecommunications industry were very involved in 2006 in reviewing intercarrier compensation issues, and action is possible but not certain in 2007.  More broadly, the FCC is currently considering how and whether to change the system of compensating carriers for use of each other’s networks. The most widely supported proposal (called the “Missoula Plan”) under consideration would establish a “unitary” rate for interstate and intrastate access charges for each rural company, which would have the effect of reducing revenues from the historically higher intrastate access rates. As part of the Missoula Plan, but potentially on a quicker track, the FCC is considering a proposal for an interim process that would resolve many of the so-called “phantom traffic” problems (traffic that is not billable) that could be implemented prior to establishing a more comprehensive process, which if adopted as proposed may allow TDS Telecom to bill for traffic that it could not have billed for in the past. The FCC is also considering whether to regulate Voice over Internet Protocol providers as telecommunications service providers and therefore make them subject to access charges for Voice over Internet Protocol traffic that terminates on the public switched network. If the FCC adopts changes in access charge regulations that reduce the revenues from interstate and/or potentially intrastate access charges, these changes could have a material adverse impact on TDS Telecom. TDS Telecom will attempt to replace lost access revenues through charges to customers or through government support payments.

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On May 23, 2001, the FCC ordered the modification of its existing universal service support mechanism for rural local telephone companies by adopting an interim mechanism for a five-year period, beginning July 1, 2001. The FCC capped the growth of the high cost loop fund for rural telephone companies indexed for inflation and the change in number of rural telephone loops. This interim period was extended until the FCC adopts new high-cost support rules for rural carriers.

During 2006, the FCC and U.S. Congress continued reviewing the universal service fund and applicable rules to assess the sustainability of the fund and they continue in 2007 to examine the process for determining the appropriate contributors, contribution rate, collection method, supported services, and the eligibility and portability of payments.  Despite interim adjustments to make the funding more sustainable, such as the FCC’s June 2006 decision to extend universal service contribution obligations to providers of interconnected VoIP and raise the safe harbor used to estimate interstate revenue for wireless providers, the FCC has indicated that additional changes are necessary to stabilize the fund. Given the overall growth in the fund, some FCC members and members of Congress have expressed concerns that the fee imposed on all telecommunications customers to finance the fund will soon reach politically unacceptable levels. The FCC also requested the Federal-State Joint Board, a body made up of FCC Commissioners and state regulatory officials, to evaluate the high-cost universal service support mechanisms for rural carriers, and to assess various changes, including the definition of a rural company, consolidation of study areas within a state, restricting support to a primary line, and the adoption of a forward looking cost mechanism. On May 1, 2007,  the Federal-State Joint Board recommended to the FCC that it impose an “interim, emergency cap” on the total amount of high cost support that competitive eligible telecommunications carriers may receive for each state.  The cap would be based on the support such carriers were receiving at the end of 2006 in a given state.  If a state was not receiving any support for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers at the end of 2006, it could not receive any support during the time the cap was in place.  The Joint Board also recommended that the cap last for eighteen months while the FCC considered other measures for reforming high cost universal service support mechanisms and stated that it would make further policy recommendations to the FCC within six months.  The FCC has sought public comment on the interim cap proposal and on the additional recommendations the Joint Board is considering.  The FCC has yet to take action on these proceedings. A cap on support available for eligible telecommunication carriers (i.e., specifically wireless carriers) is intended to enhance the sustainability of the fund. In August 2006, the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service also sought comment on using a competitive bidding process to distribute federal USF money, but action changing the distribution of funds in 2007 in uncertain. Changes in the universal service fund that reduce the size of the fund and payments to TDS Telecom could have a material adverse impact on the company’s financial position, results of operations, and cash flows.

All forms of federal support available to incumbent local exchange carriers are now “portable” to any local competitor that qualifies for support as an eligible telecommunications carrier. A number of wireless carriers have been classified as eligible telecommunications carriers and in 2006 one of the largest wireless carriers took significant steps to be so classified. Portable per-line support is currently based on the incumbent’s per line support and that could make it more attractive for wireless carriers and other companies to enter rural or suburban markets as a competitor in high-cost TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange service areas. To limit the growth of the universal service fund while making it more sustainable, the FCC adopted stricter criteria and reporting requirements when it certifies eligible providers to receive funds, but states are not required to adopt these standards when they certify a provider.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires all telecommunications carriers to interconnect with other carriers. Incumbent local exchange carriers and competitive local exchange carriers are required to permit resale, to provide number portability, dialing parity, access to rights-of-way and to pay reciprocal compensation. Unless exempted or granted a suspension or modification from these requirements, incumbent local exchange carriers must also negotiate interconnection terms in good faith, not discriminate, unbundle elements of their network and service components, offer their retail services at wholesale rates to their competitors, and allow other carriers to place equipment necessary for interconnection or access on their premises. The FCC also requires incumbent local exchange carriers’ rates for interconnection and network components to be based on “total element long-run incremental costs.”

Because all TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers are classified as “rural telephone companies”, the Telecommunications Act generally exempts them from the obligations outlined above until they receive a bona fide request for interconnection and the relevant state commission has determined that the rural exemption should be lifted. Mid-Plains Telephone, LLC, located in Middleton, Wisconsin, lost its rural exemption and is the only non-exempt subsidiary of TDS Telecom. To date, the interconnection requests received by TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers have recognized their status as “rural telephone companies”, and have been limited in scope. TDS Telecom has also received interconnection requests in several states from a cable company for the purpose of network interconnection, transport and termination of local calling area traffic, and local number portability, which represents a significant change in the competitive landscape that may pose a serious competitive challenge to TDS Telecom’s operations.

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The FCC and various provisions of federal law require carriers to comply with numerous regulatory requirements; compliance with these requirements may be costly and noncompliance may lead to financial penalties.  These requirements include providing means for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and other federal and state law enforcement officers to monitor telephone lines and digital subscriber lines and intercept telephone calls and otherwise assist in investigations, letting subscribers change to competitors’ services without changing their telephone numbers, taking actions to preserve the available pool of telephone numbers, making telecommunications accessible for those with disabilities, monitoring and reporting network outages, proper handling and protection of customer proprietary network information and other requirements.

Under a 1994 federal law, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (“CALEA”), all telecommunications carriers, including TDS Telecom, have been required to implement certain equipment changes necessary to assist law enforcement authorities in achieving an enhanced ability to conduct electronic surveillance of those suspected of criminal activity. TDS Telecom is substantially in compliance with the requirements of such act.  However, issues exist as to the applicability of such act to transmissions of “packet data” and other “information services.”  In September 2005, the FCC held that the obligations of CALEA apply to facilities-based broadband Internet access providers and providers of interconnected (VoIP) service.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld that decision in June 2006.  TDS Telecom became substantially CALEA compliant for its facilities-based broadband Internet access by the deadline of May 14, 2007

The FCC continues to consider policies to encourage nationwide advanced broadband infrastructure development. TDS Telecom has invested significantly to deliver broadband services to its customers and supports policies that further the goal of bringing broadband services to all rural customers. However, TDS Telecom does not support proposals that advocate the complete deregulation of broadband services that may adversely affect economic support for high cost areas. State commissions have also been seeking to mandate the deployment of advanced services and enhancements to the infrastructure (e.g., higher modem speeds and digital subscriber lines), and those mandates will result in additional costs to condition the loops to provide the service. In 2005, the FCC changed the regulatory classification of digital subscriber line from Title II (common carrier regulation) to Title I (which governs information services and is mostly deregulated). Specifically, the FCC provided incumbent local exchange carriers the flexibility to offer the transmission component of digital subscriber lines service on a common carrier basis, a non-common carrier basis, or some combination of both to affiliated or unaffiliated Internet service providers, which will allow TDS Telecom to continue to receive existing levels of access and universal service fund support for digital subscriber line service. After thorough evaluation, TDS Telecom has selectively chosen the appropriate type of regulation for each of its companies that provision DSL. The federal telecommunications law preserves interstate toll rate averaging and imposes a nationwide policy that interstate and intrastate long distance rates of all long distance carriers should not be higher in rural areas than in urban areas they serve.

TDS Telecom continues to participate in state and federal regulatory and legislative processes to urge that any telecommunications reform measures treat rural areas fairly and continue to provide sufficient contributions to high-cost rural service areas to keep TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carriers’ rates affordable and allow for the continued development of rural infrastructure. The ongoing changes in public policy due to numerous court, regulatory and legislative proceedings and the introduction of competition may adversely affect the earnings of the operating subsidiaries, and TDS Telecom is not able to predict the impact of these changes.

Federal Financing

The Rural Utilities Service (“RUS”), the Rural Telephone Bank (“RTB”) and the Federal Financing Bank (“FFB”), agencies of the United States of America, were previously TDS Telecom’s primary external sources of long-term financing for additions to telephone plant and equipment.  Substantially all of TDS Telecom’s telephone plant was pledged under, or was otherwise subject to, mortgages securing obligations of the incumbent local exchange carriers to the RUS, RTB and FFB as of December 31, 2004.

In 2005, TDS Telecom repaid substantially all of its RUS, RTB and FFB financing. On March 31, 2005, TDS Telecom subsidiaries repaid approximately $105.6 million in principal amount of notes to the RUS and the RTB. On June 30, 2005, TDS Telecom subsidiaries repaid approximately $127.0 million in principal amount of notes to the RUS, the RTB, the FFB and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (“RTFC”), a member-owned, not-for-profit lending cooperative that serves the financial needs of the rural telecommunications industry.

Remaining RUS long-term debt consists of rural economic development loans that are financed by the RUS to provide low- to zero-interest loans to electric and telephone utilities to promote sustainable rural economic development and job creation projects.  All of these funds have been loaned to businesses in the communities that TDS Telecom serves to promote economic growth.

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In connection with prior financings from the RTB, TDS Telecom purchased stock in the RTB.  Although TDS Telecom subsidiaries repaid all of their debt to the RTB, TDS Telecom subsidiaries continued to own RTB stock.  In August 2005, the board of directors of the RTB approved resolutions to liquidate and dissolve the RTB. In 2006, TDS Telecom remitted its shares and received $101.7 million from the RTB.

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier and Related Acquisitions and Divestitures

TDS and TDS Telecom may continue to make opportunistic acquisitions of operating telephone companies and related communications providers. Since January 1, 2002, TDS has acquired three telephone companies serving a total of 27,000 net equivalent access lines for an aggregate consideration totaling $78.2 million, all of which were transferred to TDS Telecom. The consideration paid by TDS consisted entirely of cash.

Telephone holding companies and others actively compete for the acquisition of telephone companies and such acquisitions are subject to the consent or approval of regulatory agencies in most states and by the FCC, and in some cases, to federal waivers that may affect the form of regulation or amount of interstate cost recovery of acquired telephone exchanges. The TDS acquisition strategy is to focus on geographic clustering of telephone companies to achieve cost economies and to complement TDS Telecom’s product and services growth strategy. While management believes that it will be successful in making additional targeted acquisitions, there can be no assurance that TDS or TDS Telecom will be able to negotiate additional acquisitions on terms acceptable to them or that regulatory approvals, where required, will be received.

It has been TDS Telecom’s practice to preserve, insofar as possible, the local service and sales activities of each telephone company it acquires. TDS Telecom provides the telephone subsidiaries with centralized purchasing and general management and other services. These services afford the subsidiaries expertise in finance, accounting and treasury services; marketing; customer service; traffic; network management; engineering and construction; customer billing; rate administration; credit and collection; and the development of administrative and procedural practices.

Historically, telephone company acquisition and investment decisions have assumed the ability to recover the costs of tangible assets and ongoing operations and a reasonable rate of return through local service, access, and support revenues. As universal service and access are reformed, these revenue streams are becoming less certain. In addition, local telephone companies are subject to competition from new technologies like Voice over Internet Protocol and increased wireless usage and substitution. Declines in access rates and revisions to universal service support, and competition from new technologies may lead to higher local rates and/or declining earnings and could affect TDS Telecom’s acquisition and investment strategy.

On November 30, 2004, TDS completed the sale of certain wireless properties to ALLTEL. TDS Telecom sold a majority interest in one wireless market which has been operated by ALLTEL and an investment interest in one wireless market for a total of $62.7 million in cash.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Segment

Leverage Strengths Into Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Markets

The second component of TDS Telecom’s business strategy includes leveraging its ILEC existing strengths into operations as a competitive local exchange carrier. This strategy encompasses many components including the customers within the market, market strategy, competitive environment, and infrastructure deployment and development. Additionally, planning for ongoing competitive local exchange carrier operations must consider the regulatory environment in which they operate.

The TDS competitive local exchange carrier operation is primarily facilities-based, having deployed nine switching facilities, 113 collocations and multiple, primarily local, fiber networks across the service area. Currently, the operations depend on using Regional Bell Operating Company (“RBOC”) local loops to reach almost all customers. TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier strategy maintains a geographic focus and is designed to leverage TDS Telecom’s existing management and infrastructure to complement TDS Telecom’s incumbent local exchange carrier clustering strategy. TDS Telecom has followed a strategy of controlled entry into certain targeted mid-size communities, regionally proximate to existing TDS Telecom facilities and service areas, with facilities based entry as a competitive local exchange carrier. Because it can utilize the infrastructure (e.g. billing systems, network control center, operating systems, financial systems and control accounting, technology planning, etc.) built for the TDS Telecom incumbent local exchange carrier business, management believes that the TDS Telecom competitive local exchange carrier can be profitable in markets that may not support stand alone start-ups. Additionally, TDS Telecom believes that its competitive local exchange carriers can become profitable faster than stand alone start-ups at the higher end of its targeted range (over 200,000 population). TDS Telecom’s strategy is to be the leading alternative provider for customers’ telecommunications needs in its competitive local exchange carrier markets. To this end, TDS Telecom has deployed industry standard Class 5 time-division

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multiplexing switches as well as three new Softswitches, Internet protocol technologies and other network transport facilities in its targeted competitive local exchange carrier markets. TDS Telecom follows a “clustering” approach to building its competitive local exchange carriers which allows it to cost effectively aggregate and transport long distance traffic, share service and repair resources and realize marketing efficiencies. As in its incumbent local exchange carrier markets, TDS Telecom positions itself as an integrated wireline communications provider in its chosen competitive local exchange carrier markets by providing local, long distance, Internet and new Internet protocol content services through its own facilities-based networks. TDS Telecom provides competitive local exchange carrier telecommunications services through its TDS Metrocom subsidiary.

TDS Telecom began offering competitive local exchange carrier services in the fourth quarter of 1997. These services are offered in the Madison, greater Fox Valley, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Janesville and Beloit, Wisconsin markets; in the Rockford and Lake County, northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois markets; in the greater Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Holland, Grand Haven, Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor and the western suburbs of Detroit, Michigan markets; in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud and Brainerd, Minnesota markets; and in Fargo, North Dakota.  An exchange of markets with Integra Telecom in the second quarter of 2006, added approximately 2,100 lines to the TDS northern Minnesota markets.  As of December 31, 2006, TDS Telecom had 456,200 competitive local exchange carrier equivalent access lines, of which 93.0% were provisioned on-switch.

The competitive local exchange carrier operation is currently testing the deployment of last mile replacement loop technologies.  Launched in 2004 and expanded during 2006, a fixed wireless network was deployed in a portion of the greater Fox Valley market. Initially deployed as a consumer market test, the fixed wireless initiative was expanded to include commercial account applications in the fourth quarter of 2005.  The wireless method of delivery allows for somewhat greater bandwidth (faster speeds up to 8 megabytes) when compared to current digital subscriber line services. Customers located more than 10,000 feet from the central office are now able to receive high-speed data services, thus mitigating distance limitations inherent in copper telephony-based high-speed Internet services.  Wireless delivery also allows for greater control over the installation intervals (the time beginning when a customer orders service to when service is delivered) and the customer service experience that end users have once the service is implemented. Wireless delivery also facilitates provisioning high-speed Internet and/or voice services to customers using facilities that are 100% owned and operated by the competitive local exchange carrier, thus eliminating the need for incumbent local exchange carrier local loops and eliminating the risk of regulatory changes affecting the cost of delivering service.   As of December 31, 2006, the TDS trial operation has provisioned and put in service a total of 818 fixed wireless customers.

TDS Telecom’s deployment of fixed wireless infrastructure within the Fox Valley market will be also be used to test Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.  The Internet Protocol (IP) market tests will bundle high-speed Internet services with voice services over a network that decreases dependence on Regional Bell Operating Company local facilities.  While high speed data services were delivered to consumer and commercial customers in the first quarter of 2006, testing of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) over wireless high speed data is expected to continue through the first half of 2007.

To grow and protect  its markets, TDS Telecom is expanding fixed wireless broadband in the Madison, Wisconsin market to cover geographic areas of the market that it cannot adequately service with leased, copper-based broadband technologies.  The initial deployment will deliver higher speed multi-megabyte Internet access service to both the consumer and commercial market sectors.  Throughout 2007, TDS Telecom plans to provision voice and high-speed data service bundles over the fixed wireless network. The Madison fixed wireless deployment includes equipment utilizing licensed spectrum. During 2007, TDS Telecom intends to augment its existing landline competitive network with the wireless broadband equipment operating on the 2.5GHz band licensed spectrum (see “Competitive Local Exchange Carrier and Related Acquisitions and Divestitures”).  Installation of fixed wireless equipment and testing for the two initial fixed wireless tower sites were completed during the first quarter of 2007. Nine additional Madison area fixed wireless tower sites are planned for operations by end of year 2007.  As part of the overall fixed wireless broadband strategy, TDS Telecom will evaluate licensed spectrum availability in other key markets and has urged the FCC to make additional licensed spectrum available in the 3.65GHz band

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All of the currently deployed strategies recognize the changing telecommunications marketplace and the need to meet customer demands for greater bandwidth while decreasing dependence on Regional Bell Operating Companies for infrastructure elements, especially the local loops. Further efforts to test and deploy alternative last mile technologies are expected in the near future as well as efforts designed to maximize revenue opportunities with existing high-speed Internet customers. One such effort launched during 2005 is a bundled Internet content product set. This content bundle, offered initially to existing high-speed Internet customers, provides for special access to media and interactive content providers. Providing for the availability of a better Internet experience has generated new revenue through subscriptions to this bundle and will serve as another incentive to non-broadband users to upgrade to the faster broadband Internet services in the competitive local exchange operation portfolio of services.  During 2006, an average of 23% of all new consumer high-speed data sales included a content product set.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Market Strategy

The competitive local exchange carrier strategy places primary emphasis on small and medium sized commercial customers and residential customers. Medium sized commercial prospects are characterized by above average access line to employee ratios, heavier utilization of data services and a focus on using telecommunications for business improvement. Commercial accounts typically seek increased telephony capabilities at reduced costs. To combat growing Regional Bell Operating Company customer “Winback” programs that use a low price strategy, TDS Telecom pursues an application sales strategy. This commercial, consultative sales approach builds on customer preference for integrated communication services and the customer’s perception that some of the value of the product is in personalized service. Application sales techniques create user value by a process of discovery of customer needs focused on utilizing new and existing technologies to improve business performance and create greater efficiencies in the use of telecommunications services. Ongoing after-the-sale support consultants ensure that customers always have up-to-date information about new technologies and opportunities to frequently evaluate the configurations of their telecommunications services. The application sales approach also aids in maximizing the impact of integrated voice and data technologies as businesses increase their use of data as part of their business models.

An emphasis on product development has led to the introduction of several integrated voice and data solutions as well as the creation of small business bundled products targeting one-to-five-line business customers that make buying telecommunications and data services easier and increase the perceived value of these products. Offering cost effective voice/data solutions bundled with and provisioned on a single access line provides for direct cost savings to the customer, removes distance limitations commonly associated with digital subscriber line technology, and gives the customer greater flexibility to grow business telecommunications use.  As of December 31, 2006, the CLEC had sold and provisioned 9,756 integrated T1s within the commercial sector.

Additional commercial products/services/applications are under development to sell deeper into new and existing commercial accounts.  The TDS ILEC commercial customer premise equipment (CPE) services will be leveraged and expanded into the CLEC markets.  Expanded offerings for the commercial sector include traditional telephone systems, Internet Protocol (IP) enabled telephone systems and new technology service offerings, such as hosted Internet Protocol telephony services.  Tying CLEC service offerings to CPE products is intended to drive greater customer revenues while promoting a true “One Vendor” telecommunications provider experience for CPE, voice and data services.   Internet Protocol (IP) and managed services product sets are under development to provide additional customer valued system management applications tied to CPE and recurring service revenue streams.   Local area networks (LAN)/wide area networks (WAN) equipment management, virtual private networks (VPN), firewall services, internet intrusion protection services, and universal resource locater (URL) filtering will provide commercial customers with additional services, controls and network protection.

TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier operation focuses on gaining additional market share within established competitive local exchange carrier markets. TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carriers concentrate on increasing sales distribution channels, targeting new customer segments, and rolling out new service and product sets to existing customers and to the targeted market segments.

The consumer sales strategy focuses on bundling to create demand by the mass market. TDS Telecom seeks to take the features that customers value and combine them with calling plans attractive to a majority of high-value customers. To make its products even more attractive to the high-value consumer segment, TDS Telecom emphasizes its high-speed data solutions tied to traditional service bundles. Sales of high-speed data service bundles are emphasized to counter cellular “cut the cord” customer acquisition strategies. TDS Telecom offers digital subscriber line service to provide the customer with suitable bundles that compete directly with Regional Bell Operating Companies and cable providers.  Consumer high-speed data customer acquisition will be the priority for 2007.   Other IP based product applications will then be sold over the data “pipes” to provide additional value to customers.  For the consumer market, TDS Telecom has built its customer acquisition strategy around direct response programs that allow it to deliver a tightly targeted message to specific high-value customer segments. TDS Telecom employs a variety of channels to sell, including Web marketing, door-to-door sales, agent partnerships, and telemarketing.

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While the competitive local exchange carrier operation is positioning itself as a high-quality telecommunications provider, it is experiencing price competition from the Regional Bell Operating Companies and other competitive local exchange carriers as it attempts to gain and retain customers.  In addition, the Regional Bell Operating Companies are actively seeking regulatory and technological barriers that could impede TDS Telecom’s access to facilities used to provide telecommunications services.  The competitive local exchange carrier operation continues to develop and maintain an efficient cost structure to ensure that it can match price-based initiatives from competitors. Wireless data, Internet protocol telephony, and packet switching networks are all being evaluated or deployed to increase high-speed data reach, to lower the cost of providing service, and to ensure continuing access to network facilities for service provision. To effectively compete in its chosen markets, TDS Telecom is continuing new service and product development to provide high-quality, leading edge services to its customers that can be leveraged by both its independent local exchange carrier and competitive local exchange carrier operations. As discussed below, the TDS Telecom competitive local exchange carrier operation is also actively advocating regulatory frameworks that would enable its competitive local exchange operations to grow profitably and continue to meet expectations for new and improved services of its customers.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Technology

During 2006, TDS Telecom continued fiber network upgrades to further expand its customer base. TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier operation continued to add capacity to its switches to accommodate expansion and improved redundancy in its overall network.

TDS Telecom’s expected capital spending in 2007 is $15 million to $20 million for competitive local exchange carrier markets, compared to actual capital expenditures of $17.3 million in 2006 and $27.1 million in 2005. Financing for capital additions will be provided by internally generated funds.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Market Competition

TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier operation faces a range of competition including the incumbent Regional Bell Operating Company, or one or more competitive local exchange carriers, cable providers, wireless carriers, Voice over Internet Protocol providers, and others.

TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier operation competes with the Regional Bell Operating Companies on the basis of price, reliability, state-of-the-art technology, product offerings, route diversity, ease of ordering, and customer service. The Regional Bell Operating Companies have long-standing relationships with their customers and are well established in their respective markets. Although the Regional Bell Operating Companies generally are subject to greater pricing and regulatory constraints than competitive local exchange carriers, Regional Bell Operating Companies are achieving increased pricing flexibility for their services and have implemented long-term customer contracts with high cancellation penalties for retention purposes. The Regional Bell Operating Companies continue to pursue aggressive “Winback” programs that have been somewhat effective in regaining lines lost to competitive local exchange carriers. Competition for private line, special access and local exchange services is based primarily on quality, capacity and reliability of network facilities; customer service; response to customer needs; service features; and price. It is not based on any proprietary technology. As a result of the technology used in its networks, TDS Telecom may have cost and service quality advantages over some currently available Regional Bell Operating Company networks. In addition, TDS Telecom believes that, in general, its competitive local exchange carrier operations provide more attention and responsiveness to their customers than do the Regional Bell Operating Company competitors to similar customers.

TDS Telecom also faces competition from other competitive local exchange carriers in almost all of the areas where it has competitive local exchange carrier operations. Although some competitive local exchange carriers may be weak financially, competition also comes from other entities. These entities include Regional Bell Operating Company resellers, cable television companies, Voice over Internet Protocol providers, cellular/wireless carriers, traditional Internet service providers, wireless Internet service providers (WISP) and private networks built by large end users. TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier market positioning against these carriers is based on regional focus, application oriented, results driven sales teams, personal customer care, simple and compelling offers, and consistent execution of processes—including the back office provisioning processes required to manage connections with RBOC provided facilities.

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Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Markets Regulation

A number of federal and state regulatory proposals, policies and proceedings are important to TDS Telecom’s competitive local exchange carrier operations. TDS Telecom worked with a group of competitive carriers advocating that reasonable conditions be placed upon the merged company formed by the combination of SBC and AT&T.  In its order approving the SBC/AT&T merger, the FCC imposed two conditions that were directly favorable to TDS Telecom:  1) a two-year cap on the rates charged by AT&T (formerly SBC) for unbundled network elements; and 2) a recalculation of the wire centers where unbundled network elements will be available, to remove AT&T as a separate collocator for purposes of determining if the wire center meets the threshold for denying access to certain unbundled elements under the Triennial Review Remand Order.  The first condition will provide stability for a major driver of costs in TDS Telecom’s competitive operations.  The second will serve to make more geographic areas available for access to unbundled network elements.  During 2006, the new AT&T, in turn, acquired BellSouth.  As a condition approving the AT&T/BellSouth merger, the FCC extended the same restrictions on UNE rate increases for a period that will end three years after the closing of the AT&T/BellSouth merger.  In addition, additional conditions were required by the FCC that will streamline the process for negotiating and extending interconnection agreements with AT&T, which will be beneficial to TDS Telecom’s competitive operations going forward.

As noted above, unbundled loop rates should be stable in the AT&T (formerly SBC and BellSouth) region for the next three years.  Within the Qwest region, Qwest has filed a request to raise unbundled loop rates.  TDS Telecom is participating with a group of CLECs to oppose or limit any increase.  Any change in the rates would apply prospectively from the conclusion of the case, which will likely not occur until the