Growth was driven principally by the prepaid sector, which was up 23.2% annually, compared to 13.9% for the prior twelve months. At the end of Q1 09 it had 8.82m customers. Contract growth, by contrast, dropped from 23.1% to 16.8%. This left the percentage of contract customers down 1.2pp at 33.0%, with an actual figure of 4.35m. The disparity in growth was particularly marked in Q1 09: prepaid quarterly net additions stood at 522k, the highest figure for two years, while contract gained just 85k, the lowest figure since Q3 03.
Despite the slight weakening of customer quality, monthly ARPU remained flat at ARS40. Usage rose slightly, a 2.0% uplift taking the average number of minutes to 98 per month in Q1 09. Far more dramatic was the increase in SMS usage, with the number of text messages in the quarter up 149.5% to 7.41bn.
Telecom Argentina also operates a mobile network in neighbouring Paraguay under the brand name Nucleo. Placed second in the market behind Millicom's Tigo (Telefonica Celular), Nucleo had 1.83m customers at the end of Q1 09. Annual growth stood at 8.2%, down from 27.4%, despite penetration being below 80% at the end of 2008.
The company's domestic mobile revenues increased by 16.4% to ARS1.76bn, mainly due to a 28.1% gain in VAS revenues. By contrast, Nucleo saw quarterly revenues drop 13.1% to ARS93m. Total revenues at the Telecom Argentina group, including fixed operations, were up 14.1% to ARS2.83bn, while operating profit improved by 17.0% to ARS625m.
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