Ting Report on 05-07-2015 Before Earnings Report Released

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Tucows Inc. is an Internet services and telecommunications company, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. The company is one of the largest domain registrars and operates Hover, a webhosting service, and OpenSRS, a platform for domain resellers. The company was formed in Flint, Michigan, in 1993. The Tucows logo is two cow heads, a play on the homophone "two cows." This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who owns stock in Tucows and is interested in following the company. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.
In 2012, Tucows launched Ting, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Ting provides its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing, and sales personnel. This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who who owns stock in Tucows and is interested in following the company. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.
An MVNO is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which the MVNO provides services to its customers but enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently. In Tucows case, the wireless service provider is Sprint. While Sprint provides the wireless network, Ting provides its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing, and sales personnel. This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who who owns stock in Tucows and is interested in following the company. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.

A Financial Model of Ting

by Hugh Pickens, November 2014

I am long term investor who owns stock in Tucows. The purpose of this web site is to monitor the company. I compile information about Tucows from new releases, earnings reports, earnings conferences calls, press releases, and independent reporting on Tucows and Ting. I have built a financial earnings model to monitor Ting's past performance and to make predictions on how Ting will perform in the future.

Contents

Overview of Tucows and Ting

Five year chart for TCX ending on November 28, 2014. In February, 2012, Tucows launched Ting, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Ting's launch coincided with a rise in Tucows (TCX) stock price. Tucows' stock price has quintupled since the launch of Ting. Click on the graphic to expand it. This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who owns stock in Tucows and is interested in following the company. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.
Incremental Contribution from Domain Services (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)

A Financial Model of Ting

by Hugh Pickens, November 2014

The purpose of this web site is to provide a comprehensive overview of Tucows (TCX) that documents and explains the company's business strategy and monitors the execution of that strategy with particular emphasis on Tucows' MVNO, Ting. Information about Tucows is compiled here from news releases, earnings reports, earnings conferences calls, and independent reporting on Tucows and Ting.

A financial model shows Ting's past performance and predicts how Ting will perform in the future under different growth scenarios.

Contents of This Report

Executive Summary

  • Tucows (TCX) stock price has quintupled since launching Ting in 2012.
  • Ting is a high growth business segment of Tucows.
  • Up until the 4th quarter of 2014 Ting has contributed modestly to Tucows' bottom line.
  • A financial model of Ting's past growth predicts that Ting will soon overtake domain services to become the prime driver for Tucows' future growth.
  • Our financial model shows that Ting will become the prime driver for Tucows accelerated growth within a one to two year time frame.

Original Article

The original article is available at: Ting Model

Purpose of This Report

The purpose of this report is to:

  • Explain the rise in Tucows stock price and Ting's contribution to the increase
  • Model the contribution that Ting makes to Tucows bottom line
  • Predict what Ting's future contribution will be under different growth scenarios and what the effect may be on Tucows' stock price

Disclaimer

I am long term investor who owns stock in Tucows. The purpose of this web site is to monitor Tucows so I can understand how my investment is performing. I compile information about Tucows from news releases, earnings reports, earnings conferences calls, press releases, and independent reporting on Tucows and Ting. I have built a financial earnings model to monitor Ting's past performance and to make predictions on how Ting will perform in the future under different growth scenarios. One of that attractions of reporting on Tucows is that Ting's business strategy is relatively straightforward and easy to model with a limited number of inputs. For another example of a company I own stock in and follow closely, go to my report on Phillips 66 (PSX), a much larger and more complex company.

There are three reasons I am making this information available publicly. First, I find I am more careful in my work and systematic in my approach to stock valuations when I know other people are looking at my work. Second, I would like readers of this article to send their comments, appraisals, and criticisms of my work to hughpickens at gmaildotcom so I can incorporate their ideas into my approach and improve my financial model. Third, Tucows is a small cap with a market cap of just over $200 million that is thinly traded and only being followed by three analysts. I would like the stock to become better known because I think Tucows' value will rise in a more efficient and liquid market.

This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who owns stock in the company and uses this web site to follow the company. All information on this web site comes from publicly available sources. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.

Tucows Business Analysis

Background

Tucows Inc. is an Internet services and telecommunications company, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. The company is one of the largest domain registrars and operates Hover, a webhosting service, and OpenSRS, a platform for domain resellers. The company was formed in Flint, Michigan, in 1993. The Tucows logo is two cow heads, a play on the homophone "two cows."

In February 2012, Tucows launched Ting, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). An MVNO is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which the MVNO provides services to its customers. The MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently. In Tucows case, the wireless service provider is Sprint. While Sprint provides the wireless network, Ting provides customer service, billing support systems, marketing, and sales personnel. Consumer Reports reported in November, 2014 that Ting is the highest rated small mobile service provider with the best customer service of any MVNO. According to Glenn Derene, the Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports, “Smaller providers like Ting, Consumer Cellular, and Republic have excellent satisfaction ratings because they’re designing innovative strategies to keep plan costs down for their customers and simplify their service options.”[1]

Ting's launch coincided with a rise in Tucows (TCX) stock price and since Ting's launch, Tucows (TCX) stock price has more than quintupled.

Tucows Two Business Segments

The most important single fact about Tucows is that the company operates two different business segments:

  • A predictable, steady domain registrar business (Tucows is the third largest ICANN-accredited registrar in the world and the company is the largest publicly traded registrar) and
  • A high growth mobile telco business that is attempting to disrupt a huge industry with large, entrenched incumbents.

The first business is as a wholesale reseller of domain names with over 8 million domain names under management. The domain service business segment of Tucows has a large volume but modest profit margins. The domain name business is a mature business with low margins, large cash flow, steady profits and slow growth.. The business is extraordinarily "sticky." Once someone buys a domain name from the retail side of Tucows or from one of Tucows' resellers, they almost never change providers because it is a lot of trouble to transfer a domain name to a new domain name company.

The MVNO side of the business is very different from the domain name side. The MVNO business generates high profits with gross margins of 45 percent. The MVNO business is also high growth with a customer base that increases by 10 to 15 percent every quarter. Although Tucows MVNO business is only in their third year of operation, it is already a significant contributor to the company's bottom line. There are many competitors but there is no single company dominates the MVNO business space. MVNOs are experimenting to find the best way to target customers, advertise their plans, acquire new business, provide customer service, and bill customers to become a profitable enterprise.

One thing that Ting has in common with Tucows' domain services business segment is that both segments provide world class telephone based customer service. Tucows has been able to transfer their experience in telephone based customer service from the domain name business segment to their MVNO business where customer service has become Tucows' prime differentiator from its competitors.

Consumer Reports reported in November, 2014 that Ting is the best small mobile service provider with the best customer service of any MVNO. According to Glenn Derene, the Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports, “Smaller providers like Ting, Consumer Cellular, and Republic have excellent satisfaction ratings because they’re designing innovative strategies to keep plan costs down for their customers and simplify their service options.”[2]

Incremental Contributions for Tucows Domain Services and Ting

The following is historical data taken from Tucows' last eight quarters showing the incremental contributions from Tucows' Domain Services and Ting:[3][4][5][6]

Spreadsheet 1: 02-18-2015 2013: Q1 2013: Q2 2013: Q3 2013:Q4 2014: Q1 2014: Q2 2014: Q3 2014: Q4
Net Revenue All Domain Services $27,637,000 $27,439,000 $30,919,000 $33,139,000 $27,690,000 $27,328,000 $29,125,000 $27,636,000
Cost of Revenue All Domain Services $19,968,000 $20,068,000 $20,672,000 $24,901,000 $20,035,000 $19,696,000 $20,192,000 $20,067,000
Incremental Contribution fom Tucows Domain Services (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $7,669,000 $7,371,000 $10,247,000 $8,238,000 $7,655,000 $7,632,000 $8,933,000 $7,569,000
Net Revenue Ting $2,348,000 $3,734,000 $4,718,000 $5,729,000 $6,712,000 $8,260,000 $9,749,000 $11,166,000
Cost of Revenue Ting $2,110,000 $2,940,000 $3,597,000 $3,975,000 $4,281,000 $5,040,000 $5,794,000 $6,755,000
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $238,000 $794,000 $1,121,000 $1,754,000 $2,431,000 $3,220,000 $3,955,000 $4,411,000
Incremental Contribution from Ting and Domain Services $7,907,000 $8,165,000 $11,368,000 $8,238,000 $10,086,000 $10,852,000 $12,888,000 $11,980,000

Notes

Note 1: Incremental earnings reflect the contribution of the business segment before taxes and other expenses.

Note 2: All information taken from Tucows' financial statements.

Tucows Foreign Exchange Strategy

Five Year Chart of Canadian Dollars/ US Dollars. Up until the end of 2014 the Canadian Dollar was strong against the US Dollar so the company engaged in foreign exchange hedging to provide certainty around future costs. Tucows CEO Elliot Noss said on November 20, 2014 during the 2014 Q3 conference call that with the strengthening of the US Dollar, Tucows foreign exchange strategy will change and Tucows will go unhedged starting in 2015 to take advantage of the favorable exchange rates. "If the foreign exchange rate stays more or less in its current range, EBITDA could benefit by as much as $1 million to $1.5 million in 2015 relative to this year," said Noss.

Tucows is a Canadian company that generates most of their revenue in U.S. dollars, while most of their operating expenses including labor costs, rent, and utilities are in Canadian dollars. Up until the end of 2014 the Canadian Dollar was strong against the US Dollar so the company engaged in foreign exchange hedging to provide certainty around future costs. Tucows CEO Elliot Noss said on November 20, 2014 during the 2014 Q3 conference call that with the strengthening of the US Dollar, Tucows foreign exchange strategy will change and Tucows will go unhedged starting in 2015 to take advantage of the favorable exchange rates. "The appreciation of the Canadian dollar has been a bit of a headwind really over the last decade or so, as our expenses were that much higher relative to our revenues. You see that reflective in our 2014 numbers and our guidance. However, with the recent weakening of the Canadian dollar, we now have a bit of a tailwind. We have typically hedged out 18 months or so, but are now only hedged through the end of 2014. Thus, if the foreign exchange rate stays more or less in its current range, EBITDA could benefit by as much as $1 million to $1.5 million in 2015 relative to this year."[7]

Max Lukenbach reported on January 18, 2015 in a comment to an article about Tucows in Seeking Alpha that since Noss' announcement, the Canadian Dollar has weakened further and that this will be even more beneficial for Tucows and could "add $2,000,000 to EBITDA" during 2015.[8]

Tony Redondo wrote in Exchange Rates' on January 3, 2015 that "the majority of analysts are predicting further US Dollar strength in 2015 on the back of the strong recovery in the US economy and the monetary tightening policy embarked upon by the US Federal Reserve.[9]

Ting Financial Model

Process for Modeling Ting's Financial Performance

The process used to model Ting's financial performance is:


Ting's Financial Characteristics

Following is the number of customer, devices, growth, average customer bill, gross margin, and churn for Ting over the past four quarters. All data is taken from Tucows' discussions of quarterly earnings. [10][11][12][13]

Spreadsheet 2: 02-18-2015 2013:Q4 2014: Q1 2014: Q2 2014: Q3 2014: Q4
Number of Customers at End of This Quarter 48,000 61,000 73,000 82,000 94,000
Customers Net Additions This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers Unknown 13,000 12,000 11,000 12,000
Number of Devices at End of This Quarter 74,000 94,000 112,000 130,000 147,000
New Devices Added During Quarter Unknown 18,000 20,000 18,000 17,000
Churn Rate 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Churned Customers 1,200 1,525 1,825 2,050 2,350
Average Customer Phone Bill per Quarter $105 $105 $105 $105 $105
Gross Margin 45% 45% 45% 45% 45%
Acquisition Costs per New Customer $100 $100 $100 $100 $100

Notes and Assumptions

Note 1: Ting started in February 2012. Thehe model goes back to Q3 in 2013. Prior to the earnings report Q3 in 2013 Tucows did not break out the number of customers or devices.[14]

Note 2: There is a discrepancy of 2,000 customers in the number of customers added for 2014:Q3 due to an new method that Ting used for counting customers. "This is the result of a one-time change in how we measure active accounts."[15]

Note 3: The number of churned customers is calculated by multiplying the churn rate (2.5%) times the number of customers at the end of the quarter. Noss said in the 2014:Q2 earnings conference that "It is also worth mentioning that after 30 days of service when customers tend to determine whether they are getting sufficient network coverage, our churn rate drops comfortably below 2% per month."

Note 4: Elliot Noss stated in the November, 2014 conference call that Ting had 82,000 customers at the end of Q3 and in the February, 2015 call that Ting had 94,000 customers at the end of Q4 for an increase of 12,000. Noss also stated they had added 11,000 net customers. The discrepancy is a rounding error.


Significant Financial Factors Used to Construct a Financial Model for Ting

Since Tucows has only released financial information based on customers and not devices, I will drop the device information from my model leaving the following:

Spreadsheet 3: 02-18-2015 2013:Q4 2014: Q1 2014: Q2 2014: Q3 2014: Q4
Number of Customers at End of This Quarter 48,000 61,000 73,000 82,000 94,000
Customers Net Additions This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers 10,000 13,000 12,000 11,000 12,000
Churn Rate 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Churned Customers 1,200 1,525 1,825 2,050 2,350
Average Customer Phone Bill per Quarter $105 $105 $105 $105 $105
Gross Margin 45% 45% 45% 45% 45%
Acquisition Costs per New Customer $100 $100 $100 $100 $100

Notes

Note 1: The number of devices and customers added for the 4th quarter of 2013 was not disclosed by Tucows. In this spreadsheet and going forward I will assume 10,000 new customers were added during 2013:Q4 consistent with the customers added in the first quarter of 2014.


Profitability of Ting Through Present Quarter

Spreadsheet Updated 02-16-2015 2013:Q4 2014: Q1 2014: Q2 2014: Q3 2014: Q4
Number of Customers at End of This Quarter 48,000 61,000 73,000 82,000 94,000
Customers Net Additions This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers 10,000 13,000 12,000 11,000 12,000
Churn Rate 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Churned Customers 1,200 1,525 1,825 2,050 2,350
Average Customer Phone Bill per Quarter $105 $105 $105 $105 $105
Gross Margin 45% 45% 45% 45% 45%
Acquisition Costs per New Customer $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Gross Income in This Quarter $5,040,000 $5,642,438 $6,939,188 $8,134,875 $9,116,625
Cost of Goods Sold in This Quarter $2,772,000 $3,103,341 $3,816,553 $4,474,181 $5,014,144
Cost to Acquire New Customers $1,120,000 $1,452,500 $1,382,500 $1,305,000 $1,435,000
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $1,148,000 $2,539,097 $3,122,634 $3,660,694 $4,102,481
Incremental Contribution from Ting per Share (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $0.10 $0.22 $0.28 $0.32 $0.36

Notes

Note 1: The "Gross Income" is calculated by multiplying the "Average Customer Phone per Quarter" times the number of customers in the previous quarter plus one half the new customers gained minus one half the lost (chruned) in the present quarter. The factor of one-half is used because it is assumed that customers are added in a steady stream so that on average the new customers added will contribute to the gross income only one half of the quarter.

Note 2: The "Cost of Goods Sold" is calculated by taking the "Gross Income" and subtracting from it the "Gross Income" times the "Gross Margin".

Note 3: The "Cost to Acquire New Customers" is calculated by mulitplying the "New Customers Added During This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers" plus the "Churned Customers" and multiplying this times the "Acquisition Costs per New Customer".

Note 4: The "Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)" is calculated from the "Gross Income in This Quarter" and subtracting both the "Cost of Goods Sold in This Quarter" and the "Cost to Acquire New Customers".

Note 5: The "Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)" does not include taxes and other expenses which are spread over both the domain services portion to Tucows and the Ting portion of Tucows. This will be factored in at the last step of the process.

Note 6: The "Incremental Contribution from Ting per Share (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)" is calculated by dividing the "Net Income for This Quarter (before Taxes and Other Expenses)" by the 11,321,175 outstanding shares of Tucows.


Profitability of Ting Through the Next Quarter

CEO Elliot Noss said during the February, 2015 conference call that "we're at a pretty consistent level of that we've been in that kind of 11, 12 and change range, I want to say for five quarters now and might be four but might be five." Under the assumption that net adds will continue at the 11,000 level, Ting's profitability in the next quarter is shown in the following chart:


Spreadsheet 4: 02-18-2015 2013:Q4 2014: Q1 2014: Q2 2014: Q3 2014: Q4 2015:Q1
Number of Customers at End of This Quarter 48,000 61,000 73,000 82,000 94,000 105,000
Customers Net Additions This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers 10,000 13,000 12,000 11,000 12,000 11,000
Churn Rate 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Churned Customers 1,200 1,525 1,825 2,050 2,350 2,625
Average Customer Phone Bill per Quarter $105 $105 $105 $105 $105 $105
Gross Margin 45% 45% 45% 45% 45% 45%
Acquisition Costs per New Customer $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Gross Income in This Quarter $5,040,000 $5,642,438 $6,939,188 $8,134,875 $9,116,625 $10,309,688
Cost of Goods Sold in This Quarter $2,772,000 $3,103,341 $3,816,553 $4,474,181 $5,014,144 $5,670,328
Cost to Acquire New Customers $1,120,000 $1,452,500 $1,382,500 $1,305,000 $1,435,000 $1,362,500
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $1,148,000 $2,539,097 $3,122,634 $3,660,694 $4,102,481 $4,639,359
Incremental Contribution from Ting per Share (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $0.10 $0.22 $0.28 $0.32 $0.36 $0.41

Notes

Note 1: Model assumes 11,000 new customers added in 1st quarter of 2015 per February, 2015 conference call per remarks by Tucows CEO Elliot Noss.


Profitability Through the Next Year: Constant Customer Add

Here is what the next year looks like using the assumption of 11,000 new customers per quarter.

Spreadsheet 5: 02-18-2015 2014: Q4 2015:Q1 2015:Q2 2015: Q3 2015: Q4
Number of Customers at End of This Quarter 94,000 105,000 116,000 127,000 138,000
Customers Net Additions This Quarter to Arrive at Total Customers 12,000 11,000 11,000 11,000 11,000
Churn Rate 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Churned Customers 2,350 2,625 2,900 3,175 3,450
Average Customer Phone Bill per Quarter $105 $105 $105 $105 $105
Gross Margin 45% 45% 45% 45% 45%
Acquisition Costs per New Customer $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Gross Income in This Quarter $9,116,625 $10,309,688 $11,450,250 $12,590,813 $13,731,375
Cost of Goods Sold in This Quarter $5,014,144 $5,670,328 $6,297,638 $6,924,947 $7,552,256
Cost to Acquire New Customers $1,435,000 $1,362,500 $1,390,000 $1,417,500 $1,445,000
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $4,102,481 $4,639,359 $5,152,613 $5,665,866 $6,179,119
Incremental Contribution from Ting per Share (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $0.36 $0.41 $0.46 $0.50 $0.55

Notes

Note 1: The model looks at Ting earnings over the next year under the assumption that net customers increase by 11,000 per quarter.


Overall Tucows Profitability

The final product of this exercise is to predict, as an investor, what Tucows net earnings will be in the future. The problem is that there are still a series of unknowns such as the cost of taxes and other expenses on Tucows' balance sheet, the profitability of the domain name part of Tucows' business, and the effect of currency exchange rates (Tucows in a Canadian company and pays most of their fixed costs in Canadian dollars). The approach that I am going to take is to calculate what Tucows overall profitability would be a year from now assuming that the domain services part of Tucows stays the same and that taxes and other expenses rise proportionally.

Spreadsheet 6: 02-18-2015 2014: Q4 2015:Q1 2015:Q2 2015: Q3 2015: Q4
Net Revenue All Domain Services $27,636,000 $27,636,000 $27,636,000 $27,636,000 $27,636,000
Cost of Revenue All Domain Services $20,067,000 $20,067,000 $20,067,000 $20,067,000 $20,067,000
Incremental Contribution fom Tucows Domain Services (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $7,569,000 $7,569,000 $7,569,000 $7,569,000 $7,569,000
Net Revenue Ting $11,166,000 $11,086,307 $12,312,787 $13,539,267 $14,765,747
Cost of Revenue Ting $6,755,000 $6,097,469 $6,772,033 $7,446,597 $8,121,161
Incremental Contribution from Ting (Before Taxes and Other Expenses) $4,411,000 $4,988,838 $5,540,754 $6,092,670 $6,644,586
Incremental Contribution from Ting and Domain Services $11,980,000 $12,557,838 $13,109,754 $7,569,000 $14,213,586

Notes

Note 1: For purposes of calculation, it is assumed that the "Incremental Contribution fom Tucows Domain Services (Before Taxes and Other Expenses)" will remain the same for each quarter throughout the period.

Note 2: For purposes of calculation, it is assumed that the cost of taxes rises proportionally with revenue.

Note 3: For purposes of calculation, it is assumed that the cost of currency exchange rises proportionally with revenue.

Note 4: For purposes of calculation, it is assumed that the cost other expenses which include acquisition costs and customer service scale proportionally with revenue.

Note 5: The model looks at Ting earnings over the next year under the assumption that net customers increase by 11,000 every quarter.

Comparison With Other MVNOs

It is always useful to compare a company to another company in the same business space. Tucows is, to our knowledge, the only MVNO that is part of a publicly traded company for which subscriber information, acquisition costs, chrun, and gross margins are available. However, there are other MVNOs for which some subscriber information is available:

  • FreedomPop which is presently rumored to be talks with Sprint and other carriers about acquisition or investment
  • Virgin Mobile which was acquired by Sprint Nexus in 2009

FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a free wireless internet and mobile phone service provider based in Los Angeles, California. The company provides wireless data voice and text services for Clearwire and Sprint. FreedomPop sells mobile phones, tablets and broadband devices for use with their service. FreedomPop was co-founded by Stephen Stokols, CEO and Steven Sesar in 2011. Prior to founding FreedomPop, Stokols served as CEO of Woo Media, a video-chat and entertainment startup. FreedomPop partnered with Lightsquared in December 2011, but ended its partnership after Lightsquared did not receive Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to build out its network. FreedomPop began selling its first smartphones in October 2012. That month the company converted 5% of its free users to paid users. The following month, in November, the number of converted users increased to 10%. FreedomPop also began offering mobile and wireless internet services in the United States using Clearwire's 4G network. FreedomPop converted 20% of its free user base to paid users in December 2012.[16]

In April 2013, FreedomPop partnered with Sprint to expand its coverage to include 3G and 4G with Sprint compatible devices. In October 2013, one year from its initial wireless broadband launch, FreedomPop launched its beta free mobile phone plan that included voice, text, and data service. In November FreedomPop launched a bring your own device for Sprint-compatible phones.[17]

Sprint Acquisition of FreedomPop

Josh Ong reported on The Next Web on May 14, 2014 that FreedomPop was on track to hit 250,000 total subscribers. According to FreedomPop, over 60 percent of its phone customers stick to the free plan and don’t spend anything for service. This would mean that FreedomPop had 100,000 paying customers in May, 2014. According to Ong FreedomPop added 100,000 customers in the previous year. Using this figure and the 40% rate, this would mean that FreedomPop has about 120,000 paying customers at the time this comparison is being made in December, 2014.[18]

John Shinal reported in USA Today on November 12, 2014 that according to two sources Sprint was in talks with FreedomPop about a possible acquisition that could boost Sprint's revenue growth and lower its subscriber-acquisition costs. "The talks are fluid, meaning they could lead to an investment, an acquisition or no deal between the companies," writes Shinal. "Other suitors have emerged for FreedomPop, among them a large U.S. technology company and a smaller wireless carrier, according to the sources who are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter." According to Shinal an acquisition would likely value all of FreedomPop in a range between $250 million and $450 million, while an investment would value it closer to $200 million.[19]

Kevin Richard reported at GigaOm on November 12, 2014 that FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said parts if not all of the report are false adding that while FreedomPop is in formal talks with “a few” companies about a potential acquisition, Sprint is not one of them. “We’ve gotten several inquiries on the M&A side, but nothing official from Sprint,” said Stokols.[20]

Valuation of FreedomPop

Dividing FreedomPop's paying customer base of 120,000 into the company's valuation range of $200 to $450 million, the value per customer is in the range of $1,660 to $3,750. Applying the same valuation per paying customer to Ting's 82,000 paying customers at the end of the third quarter in 2014 results in a valuation in the range from $136 to $307 million. Tucows domain services must be added for a total company valuation. Using Tucows stock price of $3.00 per share on December 30, 2011 before Ting was publicly announced times 11.3 million outstanding shares, provides a value of Tucows domain services of about $33 million. This gives Tucows a total valuation of between $170 and $341 million. Using the $18 stock price on December 1, 2014 times 11.3 million shares gives Tucows a market cap of $203 million putting The company at the low to mid range of its valuation if it were to become a target for acquisition.

Virgin Mobile

NBC News reported on July 28, 2009 that Sprint Nextel Corp. had made a $483 million deal to buy Virgin Mobile USA Inc. Sprint paid $5.50 in stock for each Virgin Mobile share. Sprint already owned 13.1 percent of Virgin Mobile, which uses Sprint's network to offer service. Virgin Mobile had 5.2 million subscribers who paid an average of $20 per month. Sprint has 49.1 million subscribers, including those using the network through wholesalers like Virgin Mobile.[21]

"This is a good transaction for Sprint, which already owns 13 percent of Virgin, because it provides 5 million customers which are already using its own network. This more than doubles the size of Sprint's prepaid business overnight and increases its distribution channels quickly for prepaid where it has had recent success with Boost Unlimited," wrote Walter Piecyk of Pali Research, noting that the transaction values each Virgin subscriber at $130, which the firm said is slightly above what it costs Virgin Mobile to acquire a customer.[22]

"We believe Virgin Mobile felt compelled to sell because its customer base was declining, the prepaid space is getting much more competitive and it faced a $100 million debt maturity at the end of next year that we do not believe it had enough free cash flow to pay-off," Piecyk wrote. "Virgin was selling an uncompetitive unlimited offering right next to Boost Unlimited in its own stores which we believe will either be terminated or brought to parity with Boost Unlimited. We think it's more likely that Virgin terminates its unlimited offerings and returns its focus to its legacy pay as you go model."[23]

Risk Factors

March 11, 2015: Ting Risk Factors From FY2014 10-K Filing With SEC

Tucows identified the following risk factors in their 10-K Filing With SEC for FY2014:[24]

  • Ting has a short operating history which may not be indicative of our future performance and, if our revenue and earnings growth are not sustainable, we may not be able to generate the earnings necessary to fund our operations or continue to grow our business.
  • Ting’s service offerings may not be successful in the long term.
  • Ting may face competitive pressure to reduce prices for our products and services, which may adversely affect our profitability and other financial results.
  • Competition in the wireless industry could adversely affect Ting’s revenues and profitability.
  • The blurring of the traditional dividing lines among long distance, local, wireless, video and Internet services contributes to increased competition for Ting services.
  • Ting employs a postpaid business model which exposes us to increased credit risk.
  • Ting may be limited in its ability to grow its business and customer base unless it can continue to obtain network capacity at favorable rates and meet the growing demands on its business systems and processes.
  • As an MVNO, Ting is dependent on its Network Operators’ for its wireless network and any disruptions to their networks may adversely affect its business and financial results.
  • Ting competes with our Network Operators’ products.

December 15, 2014: Ting ISP Risks

Tucows' announcement on December 15, 2014 that they are acquiring 70% ownership of an independent Internet service provider to provide high speed Internet access, Internet hosting and network consulting services to over 3,000 customers in Central Virginia brings a new set of risks to Tucows.[25]

  • This is a new line of business which is different from their domain services business segment and their MVNO business segment. There is no guarantee that the core competencies that have made Tucows successful will transfer over to the new line of business.
  • The new business line may divert resources from the other two business lines.
  • The new business line is very capital intensive as opposed to the two existing business segments which do not require massive capital expenditures.
  • High speed internet access is a very competitive business space with large entrenched competitors such as Google and Comcast.

December 10, 2014: Ting MVNO Risk Mitigation

Ting's announcement on December 10, 2014 that they will be partnering with a second network provider (rumored to be T-Mobile) to provide nationwide GSM coverage goes a long way towards mitigating Ting's most serious business risks from having Sprint as Ting's sole source of network coverage and the perception of Sprint's poor coverage in some geographic areas.

March 18, 2014: Ting Risk Factors From FY2013 10-K Filing With SEC

Tucows identified the following risk factors in their 2013 Annual Report:[26]

  • Ting has a short operating history which may not be indicative of our future performance and, if our revenue and earnings growth are not sustainable, we may not be able to generate the earnings necessary to fund our operations or continue to grow our business.
  • Ting’s service offerings may not be successful in the long term.
  • Ting may face competitive pressure to reduce prices for our products and services, which may adversely affect our profitability and other financial results.
  • Competition in the wireless industry could adversely affect Ting’s revenues and profitability
  • The blurring of the traditional dividing lines among long distance, local, wireless, video and Internet services contributes to increased competition for Ting services.
  • Ting employs a postpaid business model which exposes us to increased credit risk
  • Ting may be limited in its ability to grow its business and customer base unless it can continue to obtain network capacity at favorable rates and meet the growing demands on its business systems and processes.
  • As an MVNO, Ting is dependent on Sprint for its wireless network and any disruptions to such network may adversely affect its business and financial results.
  • Ting competes with Sprint’s products

Note: The Risk Factors in the 10-K Filing with the SEC for FY2014 on March 11, 2015 are identical to the Risk Factors for FY2013 except for the final factor which has been expanded from "Ting competes with Sprint’s products" to "Ting competes with our Network Operators’ products".

Latest News about Tucows and Ting

April 23, 2015: Google MVNO Announcement Coincides with Highest Traffic in Months to Ting Site

Michael Goldstein wrote on the Ting Blog on April 23, 2015 that Google's announcement of a new mobile service coincided with the most traffic Ting has had in months to their site. Every web site in the world covered the Google news but "Ting customers commented under half those stories that “Ting did (this or that) first” or “I’m only spending $23 a month” or “The best part about Ting is their customer service," writes Goldstein. "So the opportunity for us just mathematically dwarfs the threat."

Goldstein says that Google's entry into the MVNO space with Sprint and T-Mobile as partners will also benefit Ting because Google will push "our mutual carrier partners to develop all sorts of wholesale capabilities that we will now swoop in and leverage." "In many ways, Google (with their buying clout) offers a great hint of benefits that more providers and end users should soon enjoy. International roaming rates should keep getting lower for all of us. VoIP functions and features (originating with the carriers) should keep getting better."

According to Goldstein, Google has offered a great vision for network agnosticism but you have to buy a $649 phone to use the service while Ting might be the only provider that is absolutely indifferent between networks, operating systems, devices and activities that you perform on your device. "Ting offers complete unimpeded choice. For Ting customers, that often means activating a three-year old smartphone that they bought off their brother-in-law for a song. It also means that when we eventually launch an integrated VoIP solution (with what we need at the carrier level), it will be one that Ting customers can use on absolutely any phone they want. That’s simply our vision and we’re sticking to it."[27]

April 8, 2015: Things Are Getting Back to Normal at Ting After Problems with Sprint's FED

Andrew Moore-Crispin wrote on the Ting Blog that after the problems with Sprint’s financial eligibility date (FED) check that was announced on February 15, 2015, the situation at Ting is coming under control and customer service at Ting is starting to get back to normal.
Sprint’s financial eligibility date (FED) check put a serious crimp in the bring your own device to Ting program and pushed a lot of people to call us to find out what was going on. We pushed the Ting on a GSM network beta release up a little in order to offer some different options. The end result was us breaking our promise of no hold customer service. Marketing went into stealth mode while we sorted things out. We stopped most of the things we do to try to get new customers and instead jumped into the ticket and email queue to lend a hand there. The ship has been righted and it’s just about anchors aweigh. In keeping with the nautical theme, it will soon be steady as she goes.[28]

Financial Eligibility Date Check

"When FED first hit, around 70% of devices that tried to come to Ting were being blocked by Sprint and only 30% made it past the gatekeeper. FED was casting too wide a net and catching devices it shouldn’t. Nexus and iPhone devices purchased directly from Google or Apple without any kind of carrier subsidy, for example," writes Moore-Crispin. "We’ve been working closely with Sprint to narrow FED’s focus and now, the numbers are reversed. 70% of devices that people attempt to activate on Ting pass FED check and 30% fail."[29]

Ting on a GSM Network

"Ting on a GSM network is ready for prime-time," writes Moore-Crispin. "The beta label will be pulled off Ting on a GSM network soon. Ting on a GSM network is now ready for primetime."[30]

Customer Service

"We broke our promise of no hold customer service. If you called us and didn’t get a real person on the line right away, we’re sorry. We take our customer service promises very seriously. We are on the road to recovery," writes Moore-Crispin. "Call volumes spiked to a level higher than we predicted in even our most dire of predictions as a result. Add to that the launch of Ting on a GSM network into open beta (in large part, an attempt to stop people getting rejected by FED from being left in the lurch) and the customer experience team was overrun."[31]

Ting Plans to Soon Begin to Actively Recruit New Users

"We slowed down to fix the issues that lead to this broken promise and to mitigate the risk of it happening again. We stopped any initiatives to get new people in the door until we’re sure we’re meeting this promise once more," writes Moore-Crispin. "Very soon, we’ll be in a position to start turning the tap back on full blast, inviting and welcoming new people to Ting. We’re looking forward to looking forward."[32]

March 11, 2015: Tucows Files 10-K for FY2014

Tucows Paid $3.6 Million for Their 70% Interest in BRI

"On February 24, 2015, Ting Fiber, Inc., one of our wholly owned subsidiaries, acquired a controlling ownership interest in the newly formed Ting Virginia, LLC and its acquired subsidiaries, Blue Ridge Websoft, LLC (doing business as Blue Ridge InternetWorks), Fiber Roads, LLC and Navigator Network Services, LLC (the BRI Group) for a consideration of approximately $3.6 million. Ting Virginia, LLC is an independent Internet service provider in Charlottesville, Virginia, doing business primarily as Blue Ridge InternetWorks. The BRI Group provides high speed internet access, Internet hosting and network consulting services to over 3,000 customers in central Virginia. We will satisfy the purchase price through an advance under our 2012 DLR Loan facility."

"In January 2015, we borrowed $3.5 million under our Amended Credit Facility in order to fund the acquisition of a controlling ownership in Ting Virginia, LLC. This borrowing is subject to the terms and conditions described in note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements."[33]

Tucows Has Repurchased 108,605 Shares Since February 16, 2015 Buyback Program Was Announced

"On February 11, 2015, we announced that our Board of Directors had approved a stock buyback program to repurchase up to $20 million of our common stock in the open market and privately negotiated transactions. Purchases will be made exclusively through the facilities of the NASDAQ Capital Market. The stock buyback program commenced on February 16, 2015 and will terminate on or before February 15, 2016. As of March 6, 2015, we have spent a total of $2.0 million to repurchase 108,605 shares under this stock buyback program, and therefore, the remaining repurchase authorization is $18.0 million. All shares purchased by us under the stock buyback program will be retired and returned to treasury."[34]

Tucows Has $26.2 Million Of Outstanding Foreign Exchange Forward Contracts Which Will Convert To CDN $29.3 Million

"As of December 31, 2014 the Company has $26.2 million of outstanding foreign exchange forward contracts which will convert to CDN $29.3 million. Of these contracts, $22.3 million met the requirements for hedge accounting. As of December 31, 2013 the Company had $26.5 million of outstanding foreign exchange forward contracts which will convert to CDN $27.8 million. Of these contracts, $20.6 million met the requirements for hedge accounting."

"We have performed a sensitivity analysis model for foreign exchange exposure over the year ended December 31, 2014. The analysis used a modeling technique that compares the U.S. dollar equivalent of all expenses incurred in Canadian dollars, at the actual exchange rate, to a hypothetical 10% adverse movement in the foreign currency exchange rates against the U.S. dollar, with all other variables held constant. Foreign currency exchange rates used were based on the market rates in effect during the year ended December 31, 2014. The sensitivity analysis indicated that a hypothetical 10% adverse movement in foreign currency exchange rates would result in a decrease in net income for the year ended December 31, 2014 of approximately $2.4 million. There can be no assurances that the above projected exchange rate decrease will materialize. Fluctuations of exchange rates are beyond our control. We will continue to monitor and assess the risk associated with these exposures and may take additional actions in the future to hedge or mitigate these risks."[35]

Salary, Bonus, Stock Owned, and Stock Options of Tucows' Major Officers

Major Officers Salary Bonus Total Shares of Common Stock Owned Exercisable Stock Options Unexercisable Stock Options
Elliot Noss – President and CEO 343,589 182,754 526,343 702,146 62,687 21,563
Michael Cooperman - Chief Financial Officer 269,206 128,121 397,327 260,082 65,749 13,751
David Woroch – Vice President, Sales 224,143 134,834 358,977 110,001 63,249 13,751

March 3, 2015: Sprint's New Financial Eligibility Date (FED) is Frustrating for New Ting Users

Andrew Moore-Crispin reported on the Ting Blog that the Ting support team is overrun due to circumstances outside of their control and there are several things happening all at once that are driving call volumes higher than anyone could have anticipated. Sprint’s new “financial eligibility date” (FED) check is driving the majority of the calls. "We still don’t have all the answers yet and so our project and development teams can’t design around it. As it stands, it’s a real pain point. We know all too well how frustrating it is and we sincerely apologize," writes Moore-Crispin. "The sheer volume of calls coming in is the root cause of us not picking up the phone as quickly as we want to. Our customer service team doesn’t follow a script and instead works on the mandate of helping people find actual solutions to problems. This as compared with the customer support norm of trying to get people off the phone as quickly as possible. That’s an exacerbating factor. To be clear, though, that mandate doesn’t change, even in times of stress like this."

"For the past couple of weeks it has been all hands to the pump. The various other Ting teams are helping the support team whenever we can. We’re jumping in to answer help requests as they come in. We’re not jumping in on the call queue and getting on the phones because we’d probably end up more a hinderance than a help," concludes Moore-Crispin. "This temporary spike in calls is just that, temporary. We just need to dig out from under the pile of calls and emails before we’re back to delivering on our promise of no hold customer service. In the interim, though, we’re very sorry if you get put on hold. This isn’t something we’re about to make a habit of."[36]

February 24, 2015: Ting's GSM Offering Now in Open Beta

The Ting Blog announced on February 24, 2015 that Ting on a GSM network is now in open beta so anyone with a Ting GSM SIM card can activate it, slip it into an unlocked phone and get started with Ting. The biggest things that are missing on GSM at this point are international roaming and international long distance.[37]

February 18, 2015: New Sprint Handset Policy Tangles Up 'Bring Your Own Device' Program

Phil Goldstein reported on Fierce Wireless that some customers are experiencing difficulties in bringing their phones over to Ting and other Sprint MVNOs because of Sprint's new policy that Sprint will block your device from being reactivated until they check if a customer still owes the carrier money.[38] "The bad news is that some devices that previously would have had no trouble coming to Ting are now being blocked from making the move, basically because the owner hasn’t paid his or her final bill… most likely because they haven’t actually received that final bill," writes Andrew Moore-Crispin at Tucows. "We strongly urge our customers not to interrupt their devices’ active state for the time being. There is a chance that only by deactivating your device would you / we learn that it is considered by Sprint to be “financially ineligible,” i.e. is connected in some way to an account that owes Sprint some money. If a device is considered “financially ineligible” by Sprint, they will block any attempt to reactivate it until any outstanding balance is cleared."[39]

February 11, 2015: Tucows Announces Fourth Quarter Financial Results

“The fourth quarter was a solid finish to a strong year for Tucows,” said Elliot Noss, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tucows Inc. “The continuing growth in contribution from Ting Mobile, combined with steady performance of our Domains business, enabled us to deliver net earnings per share of $0.16 for the fourth quarter, bringing EPS for the year to a record $0.57, an increase of 43% over 2013. Importantly, we continue to realize the benefit from the operating leverage in our business as consolidated gross margin for the quarter grew to 26% from 23%, excluding the Portfolio Group, for the same period last year.”[40]

Tucows Beat EBITDA for 2014 with $15 Million

"We finished the year above the top end of our guidance of 14.5 million to 15 million in adjusted EBITDA," said Elliot Noss during the 4th quarter conference call.[41]

Tucows Expects EBITDA to rise in the Range of $20 Million for 2015

"We expect EBITDA to be in the $20 million range which is a fine outcome balancing growth in the business in short-term with creating greater opportunities for growth in the long-term," said Elliot Noss during the 4th quarter conference call.[42]

Tucow Expects Ting to Be Tucows Largest Contributor in 2015

"As we look out to 2015 we expect to see continued strong performance from Ting Mobile which will become the largest contributor to and drive the bulk of growth in adjusted EBITDA," said Elliot Noss during the 4th quarter conference call.[43]

There is Increased Price Competion in the Mobile Sector

"There is this headwind of increased price competition and frankly there is just a headwind of consistent churn on a growing base and then we have the tailwinds around the great customer experience, the strong order and performance in referral program, the scrappy marketing we do, the new opportunities that we uncover every quarter," said Elliot Noss during the 4th quarter conference call.[44]

February 11, 2015: Tucows Announces Growth in Ting

Ting has 94,000 Customer at the End of Q4 Adding 11,000 Net Customers

"We added just over 11,000 accounts and 17,000 devices in Q4, 43% of those in December," said Tucows CEO Elliot Noss. "In 2014 we added 47,000 accounts and 73,000 devices, almost exactly doubling our totals to 94,000 active accounts and 147,000 active devices. Those net ads include churn that remains in the range 2% to 2.5% monthly."[45]

Customers Spend $35 a Month on Their Phone Bills, Gross Margins are 45 to 50%, Acquisition Costs Are Under $100 Per Customer, and Churn is Between 2 and 2.5%

Customers spend about $35 a month on their phone bills, gross margins are still in the range of 45% to 50%, we spend under $100 to acquire a customer, we’re now adding about 18,000 new customers on a gross basis each quarter and continue to churn between 2% and 2.5% of our base each month.[46]

With GSM over 80% of Phones Will be Able to Come to Ting Up From 10% Previously

Elliot Noss said during the fourth quarter confrence call on February 11, 2015 that offering service on a GSM network will have a significant impact on device portability and choice because up until now only about 10% of existing phones could come to Ting. "Until now, only about 10% of existing phones could come to Ting. When we launched the GSM service, over 80% of phones will be able to come to Ting for just $9 investment in Ting’s new SIM card. For those wanting to bring a device of their own this just makes the total savings calculation that much more favorable, for those who wanting to buy a new device it greatly expands the options."[47]

February 11, 2015: Tucows Announces $20 Million Stock Buyback Program

CNN Money reported on February 11, 2015 that Tucows announced that its Board of Directors has approved a stock buyback program to repurchase up to $20 million of its common stock in the open market. The stock buyback program will commence February 16, 2015 and will terminate on or before February 15, 2016. All shares purchased by Tucows under the stock buyback program will be retired and returned to treasury.[48]

February 11, 2015: Ting No Longer Has to Wait for iPhone 6/6 plus on Sprint Network

9to5mac reported on February 11, 2015 that sources say Sprint is dropping a requirement that made the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) using its network—such as Ting, FreedomPop, Straight Talk, Boost, and Virgin—wait a certain period of time, usually at least a year, before offering support for the latest devices. For Ting, the moves comes just as it’s about to land support for almost all devices anyway as it makes a deal with T-Mobile to offer support for GSM devices on its network. In the past, Ting required customers to bring a Sprint supported, CDMA device when signing up with its plans, but in the coming weeks the carrier will also support GSM devices through the new deal with T-Mobile.[49]

January 22, 2015: Ting Welcomes Google to the Fray

Andrew Moore-Crispin wrote on the Ting Blog of January 22, 2015 that Ting welcomes Google to the fray. "There are more than enough disenfranchised customers of the major carriers to go around. With three years in the game, we’re available to chat—to hangout, as it were—but it seems only fair that you buy whatever drinks will be had when we do." Moore-Crispin says that Google’s entry into the market will be the first a lot of people will hear about “MVNOs” as an alternative to the majors and just adds more legitimacy and helps to dispel the myth that MVNO customers get second-rate service. "We’ll out odds on our approach of putting customers in control of their devices and ultimately, their bills and of having real, human beings pick up the phone when it rings."[50]

January 21, 2015: Ting Announces Beginning of GSM Rollout

Tucows announced on January 21, 2015 that Ting is on track to launch Ting on a GSM network in late February and is slowly inviting people into the early beta phases. "Our first batch of X1 SIM cards has arrived in Starkville, Mississippi. We’ve been testing Ting service across a wide array of devices since early December."[51]

January 13, 2015: Ting to Be Network Operator of Internet Service to City-Owned Fiber Optic Network in Westminister, Maryland

The Whir reported that Tucows announced on January 13, 2015 that Ting has been selected to be the network operator of the city-owned fiber optic network in Westminister, Maryland that will initially reach around 9,000 homes and 500 businesses. “They believed that superfast Internet could bring and grow businesses, create jobs, increase property values and improve the quality of life for all residents,” said Ting VP of marketing Michael Goldstein. “They also realized that infrastructure that is crucial to the city, and likely will be for the next hundred years, should rightly be owned by the city.” “If a smaller, more customer-focused company player like Ting can pull off a win-win in a community like Charlottesville, it bodes really well for small towns and providers all over the country," said Ting senior content manager Andrew Moore-Crispin. "For the record, we’re confident we can pull off just that, otherwise we wouldn’t start down the path."[52]

January 8, 2015: Tucows Dutch Auction Ends with Purchase of 193,907 shares at $18.50

Tucows announced in a press release on January 8, 2015 that their modified “Dutch auction” tender offer had ended with the purchase 193,907 shares of its common stock at a purchase price of $18.50 per share, for a total cost of $3,587,280, excluding fees and expenses related to the tender offer. The 193,907 shares accepted for purchase in the tender offer represent approximately 1.7% of Tucows’ currently issued and outstanding common stock. Following the payment Tucows will have approximately 11,135,825 shares issued and outstanding.[53]

December 16, 2014: Ting Acquires Majority Stake In Blue Ridge InternetWorks, an Independent Internet Service Provider

Tucows issued a press release on December 15, 2014 reported that Ting Fiber, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tucows, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 70% ownership of an independent Internet service provider in Charlottesville, Virginia doing business primarily as Blue Ridge InternetWorks, a company that provides high speed Internet access, Internet hosting and network consulting services to over 3,000 customers in Central Virginia. “The expansion from mobile to fixed access is almost obvious for us,” says Tucows CEO Elliot Noss. “The only customers in the world more starved for great service and fair pricing than mobile phone customers are cable customers. They deserve that. But we have an opportunity with BRI in Charlottesville to offer even more than great service at a low price. The step up to gigabit, or ultra high-speed, access is profound.” The founders of the BRI Group will remain with the company. The price and terms of the acquisition were not announced. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close during the first quarter of 2015. “For shareholders, this is a rare opportunity," concluded Noss. "In one deal, we get customers, revenue, prospects, infrastructure and a wealth of fiber expertise. We get an inside track on a game changing technology.”[54]

December 9, 2014: Fiercewireless Says Ting Will Be Adding T-Mobile Support in February 2015

Phil Goldstein reported at Fiercemobile that Ting Director Scott Allan told FierceWireless that he could not say which GSM carrier Ting is working with due to contractual obligation however, a coverage map Ting provided to FierceWireless mirrors the national coverage footprint of T-Mobile. Customers will be able to bring unlocked GSM phones to Ting and purchase a GSM SIM card to work with the phone. Ting's GSM SIM cards will cost $9 or less, according to Allan. Allan said Ting only began discussing adding a GSM partner within the last six months but that the move fits with what Ting offers to customers. "It aligns with our brand," he said. "We want consumers to have choices. And we want consumers to have freedom. And we want to provide innovative services. GSM really ticks all those boxes for us."[55]

December 9, 2014: Ting Will Support Latest Devices Including iPhone 6 in February 2015

The Ting Blog reported on December 9, 2014 that when Ting on GSM is live in February 2015, there will be no more waiting for the latest iPhone or Android device to be allowed on Ting. If it can be purchased unlocked, or if it can be carrier unlocked, it can come. What’s more, better than 80% of smartphones made in the last couple of years will be compatible with Ting. That will include the unlocked iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.[56]

December 9, 2014: Ting to Add Service on a GSM Network

Tucows announced on December 9, 2014 that Ting has an agreement with a major US network provider to offer service on a GSM network that is slated to go live in February 2015 and will operate in concert with the existing CDMA service. Once live, CDMA and GSM devices can coexist under a single Ting account, sharing a single pool of minutes, messages and megabytes of data. “This is an industry first,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows and Ting. “Our goal has always been a mobile market where customers and their devices can move between carriers as they see fit. We think the power balance in the mobile industry is all off. Customers, not service providers, should hold the cards.”[57]

December 8, 2014: Tucows Announces Dutch Auction Tender Offer

Tucows announced on December 8, 2014 that that it is commencing its "modified Dutch auction Tender Offer" (the "Tender Offer") to repurchase a number of its common stock not to exceed an aggregate purchase price of $8.0 million. Under the Tender Offer, shareholders will have the opportunity to tender some or all of their shares at a price within the range of $16.50 to $18.50 per share. Assuming that the offer is fully subscribed, if the Purchase Price is determined to be $16.50 per share, the minimum Purchase Price under the Tender Offer, the approximate number of shares that will be purchased under the offer is 484,848. Assuming that the Tender Offer is fully subscribed, if the Purchase Price is determined to be $18.50 per share, the maximum Purchase Price under the offer, the approximate number of shares that will be purchased under the offer is 432,432. Shareholders whose shares are purchased in the offer will be paid the determined purchase price per share net in cash, without interest, after the expiration of the offer period at 5:00 P.M., New York City Time, on Wednesday, January 7, 2015. [58]

November 20, 2014: Consumer Reports Rates Ting Highest Among Wireless Providers

Justin Diaz reported at Android Headlines on November 20, 2014 that as part of Consumer Reports annual cell-phone service comparison Ting came out on top as the best mobile wireless provider with a company rating of 91 out of 100 because of their excellent service and customer support. According to Glenn Derene, the Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports, “Smaller providers like Ting, Consumer Cellular, and Republic have excellent satisfaction ratings because they’re designing innovative strategies to keep plan costs down for their customers and simplify their service options.”[59]

“If you haven’t heard of the company before, there’s a reason for that: The service’s parent company, Tucows, is a domain name registrar and has made a business decision to not spend a lot on Ting-related advertising, instead choosing to offer lower-priced services. Considering they received the top spot on value, it appears they are performing well here."[60]

November 12, 2014: Tucows Announces Third Quarter Results

"In the third quarter we again saw the growing contribution from Ting in our financial results as our Domain Services businesses continued to deliver consistent, reliable performance," said Elliot Noss, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tucows Inc. "We achieved net earnings of $0.24 per share, bringing net earnings for the year-to-date to $0.40 per share, surpassing our total for the entire 2013 year. Consolidated gross margin increased to 26% from 21% a year earlier, excluding the Portfolio group, which benefited from atypical contributions in both quarters."[61]

Ting has 82,000 Customers at the End of Q3 and Added 11,000 New Customers This Quarter

"I want to note, that while we added 11,000 accounts in Q3 we are now counting our total of active accounts at just over 82,000, which is only 9,000 more than the 73,000 we reported last quarter," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "This is the result of a one-time change in how we measure active accounts."[62]

"Ting continued its strong customer growth in the third quarter. We had a roughly 11,000 accounts and 17,000 devices, that represents a 15% increase in our customer base in the quarter, healthy growth for just about any business. But for Ting, it is in fact a bit of a slowdown," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "Absolute net adds were slightly below both Q2 of this year and Q3 of last year. This is partly above the success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launches during the quarter, devices we do not yet support on Ting. It is also partly about the climbing perception of the Sprint network relative to other major networks. And it also appears to be about aggressive new price promotions for major carriers to retain and acquire customers. Looking ahead, we believe each of these areas, device, network and price bring more opportunities for Ting growth than threats."[63]

Ting Has 130,000 Devices at the End of Q3 and Added 17,000 New Devices This Quarter

"As I last quarter I will quickly summarize the Ting business for easy modeling. We finished the quarter at 82,000 customers with 130,000 devices," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "Customers are spending about $35 a month on their phone bills. Growth margins are 45% to 50%. We spent under $100 to acquire a customer. We are adding about 16,000 new customers on growth basis each quarter and continue to churn about 2.5% of our base each month."[64]

"Ting continued its strong customer growth in the third quarter. We had a roughly 11,000 accounts and 17,000 devices, that represents a 15% increase in our customer base in the quarter, healthy growth for just about any business. But for Ting, it is in fact a bit of a slowdown," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "Absolute net adds were slightly below both Q2 of this year and Q3 of last year. This is partly above the success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launches during the quarter, devices we do not yet support on Ting. It is also partly about the climbing perception of the Sprint network relative to other major networks. And it also appears to be about aggressive new price promotions for major carriers to retain and acquire customers. Looking ahead, we believe each of these areas, device, network and price bring more opportunities for Ting growth than threats."[65]

Customers Are Spending About $35 a Month on Their Phone Bills

"Customers are spending about $35 a month on their phone bills," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss.[66]

Gross Margins are 45% to 50%

Gross margins are 45% to 50%," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss.[67]

Customer Acquisition Costs are under $100

We spent under $100 to acquire a customer.

Ting Expects to Add 16,000 New Customer Per Quarter

We are adding about 16,000 new customers on growth basis each quarter and continue to churn between 2.0 and 2.5% of our base each month.

Average Ting Customer Saves $60 per Month

"A recent audit of the Ting base revealed that our average customer has saved $37.57 per device a month since switching, that’s an average of nearly $60 per account," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "Meanwhile McKinsey just completed an annual survey, revealing that for the second year in a row price is the number one consideration for customers changing mobile providers and the percentage for whom that is true has grown considerably."[68]

Ting is No Longer Appealing to Just Early Adapters

"For the past couple of years, we’ve been fighting for our share of a small population of early adopters that are just satisfied and venturous enough to look beyond the major carriers for savings," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "We believe the most important trend over the next year, will be more and more people joining that population recognizing that they can be paying less, looking beyond the four major carriers and discovering services like ours."[69]

Survey Shows Price Is The Number One Consideration For Customers Changing Mobile Providers

Meanwhile McKinsey just completed an annual survey, revealing that for the second year in a row price is the number one consideration for customers changing mobile providers and the percentage for whom that is true has grown considerably," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "That means price ranks above network coverage or device choice. And we know that last year was the first time that that was true in this McKinsey study.[70]

Ting Made a One Time Accounting Change in How Tucows Measures Active Accounts

"This is the result of a one-time change in how we measure active accounts," said Tucows CEO Eliot Noss. "Specifically we have now removed all accounts going back throughout our history that we proactively suspended for nonpayment.[71]

Tucows Will Go into 2015 Unhedged Against the US Dollar Which Could Add $1 to 1.5 Million Yearly EBITDA

"With the movement in the Canadian dollar over the past six or so months, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update on our hedging program. As a reminder, we generate revenue in U.S. dollars, but the majority of our operating expenses are in Canadian dollars and therefore, we engage in foreign exchange hedging to provide certainty around future costs. The appreciation of the Canadian dollar has been a bit of a headwind really over the last decade or so, as our expenses were that much higher relative to our revenues. You see that reflective in our 2014 numbers and our guidance. However, with the recent weakening of the Canadian dollar, we now have a bit of a tailwind. We have typically hedged out 18 months or so, but are now only hedged through the end of 2014. Thus, if the foreign exchange rate stays more or less in its current range, EBITDA could benefit by as much as $1 million to $1.5 million in 2015 relative to this year.[72]

November 12, 2014: Tucows Announces Intention to Commence Dutch Auction Tender Offer

Tucows announced on November 12, 2014 that it expects to commence within 30 days of this announcement a "modified Dutch auction" tender offer to repurchase a number of shares of its common stock not to exceed an aggregate purchase price of $8.0 million. Tucows will select the lowest single per-share purchase price that will allow it to buy up to $8.0 million of its outstanding common stock at completion of the Tender Offer. The specified range is yet to be determined but is expected to be in the range of $16.00 to $18.00 per share. [73]

August 12, 2014: Tucows Announces Second Quarter Results

Ting Added 12,000 Accounts and 18,000 Devices

"Q2 was another solid quarter of customer growth for Ting," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "On our last call, we projected that Q2 net adds would land somewhere between those of Q3 and Q4 of last year, or between 11,000 and 12,000 accounts. We ended up matching Q4, adding just over 12,000 accounts and 18,000 devices. That represents a 20% growth in our customer base in total, bringing our totals to over 73,000 accounts and 112,000 devices."[74]

Ting Now Has 73,000 Accounts and 112,000 Devices

This has brouhgt "our totals to over 73,000 accounts and 112,000 device" said Noss.[75]

Churn Rate Was Between 2 and 2.5 Percent

"Churn for Q2, and in fact pretty consistently for the past year, was in the 2% to 2.5% range per month," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "We provide this number for two main reasons. First, this is the number one data request from investors as they build out their financial models. We always try and provide as much transparency as possible in order to allow investors to track the business."[76]

Customers are Spending $35 Per Month on Their Phone Bill

"Customers are spending about $35 a month on their phone bills," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "Gross margins are 45% to 50%. We spend under $100 to acquire a customer. We’ve added 15,000, 16,000 new customers on a gross basis each of the last three quarters and have churned between 2% and 2.5% of our base."[77]

Cost to Acquire a Customer if $100

We spend under $100 to acquire a customer," said Tucows President Elliot Noss.[78]

Gross Margins Are 45 to 50 Per Cent

Gross margins are 45% to 50%," said Tucows President Elliot Noss.[79]

Ting is the Primary Driver on Gross Margins

"Yes, but I think that the primary driver on gross margins will continue to be Ting’s percentage of the business," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "So Ting is growing so much faster than the domain side of the business and has appreciably better margins. So that will be the primary impact. You’ll see margin continue to pick up, but slowly and on a decreasing percentage of the total business."[80]

May 14, 2014: Tucows Announces First Quarter Results

Ting Had 61,000 Accounts and 94,000 Devices at the End of the Quarter

"Q1 was another record quarter for customer loyalty," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "We added nearly 13,000 in accounts net and more than 20,000 devices, bringing our totals to more than 61,000 accounts and 94,000 devices at the end of March."[81]

Ting Added 13,000 Accounts and 20,000 Devices

"Q1 was another record quarter for customer loyalty," said Tucows President Elliot Noss. "We added nearly 13,000 in accounts net and more than 20,000 devices, bringing our totals to more than 61,000 accounts and 94,000 devices at the end of March."[82]

Ting's Gross Margin is Between 45 and 50%

Importantly, even after lowering our data pricing in February, our gross margin percentage remained in our targeted 45% to 50% range," said Tucows CEO Elliot Noss.[83]

Churn Rate Was Not Given

"One, I'll be a lot more comfortable putting out a churn number when the Sprint network hopefully settled down in terms of having an impact over the next couple of quarters. I listened to their calls with great interest and I am looking forward to the call where they say, our network's no longer having an impact on churn because when impacts them, it impacts us," said Tucows CEO Elliot Noss.[84]

February 12, 2014: Tucows Announces Fourth Quarter Results

Ting Had 48,000 accounts and 74,000 devices at the End of the Quarter

Moving to Ting metrics, Q4 was another outstanding quarter. We added more than 12,000 accounts and more than 18,000 devices beating Q3’s record numbers and bringing our totals to 48,000 accounts and 74,000 devices at the end of December.[85]

Ting Added 12,000 accounts and 18,000 devices During the Quarter

Moving to Ting metrics, Q4 was another outstanding quarter. We added more than 12,000 accounts and more than 18,000 devices beating Q3’s record numbers and bringing our totals to 48,000 accounts and 74,000 devices at the end of December.[86]

Gross Margin and Churn Not Given for This Quarter

Importantly gross margin percentage, annual customer contribution and customer acquisition costs continue to be right where we would like them. Last quarter I talked about our rate of growth leveling off subsequent for the launch of iPhone 5C and 5S and iOS 7.[87]

What Analysts Say About Tucows and Ting

May 7, 2015: Hugh Pickens Predicts 8,000 Net Additional Ting Customers for Q1 2015

Just ahead of Tucows earnings release for Q1 2015 analyst Hugh Pickens predicted that Ting will have 8,000 net additional customers for the first quarter, down from the 11,000 net additional customers predicted on February 11, 2015 in the fourth quarter earnings conference. The numbers are predicated on an original scenario with 2% turnover in customers (2,650 customers) and a gross add of 13,650 customers necessary to reach 11,000 net adds. "I think the number of gross additional customers are going to be lower than expected," says Pickens, "because uncertainty caused by Sprint's new Financial Eligibility Date (FED) policy announced on March 3, 2015 is going to depress new customer acquisition."

"We slowed down to fix the issues that lead to this broken promise and to mitigate the risk of it happening again," wrote Andrew Moore-Crispin on the Tucows blog on April 7, 2015. "We stopped any initiatives to get new people in the door until we’re sure we’re meeting this promise once more. Very soon, we’ll be in a position to start turning the tap back on full blast, inviting and welcoming new people to Ting. We’re looking forward to looking forward."[88]

Pickens says he thinks uncertainty surrounding Sprint's FED depressed new customer adds to about 60% of normal gross adds from the period March 3 through April 7 when Tucows announced that things were getting back to normal and depressed new customer adds to 80% of the baseline during the final month of the quarter. "We believe new customers adds are now back to normal and may even increase going forward with the rollout of GSM coverage," says Pickens.

' Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Gross Adds - Churn Net Adds
Predicted Net Adds 4,550 4,550 4,550 13,650 2,650 11,000
Modified Net Adds 4,550 2,730 3,640 10,920 2,650 8,270

March 13, 2015: Analyst Sets 12-month Price Target for Tucows of $22

Intercooler reported on March 12, 2015 that the one broker that provide coverage for Tucows has rated the stock with a buy recommendation and set a 12-month consensus target price of $22.00 for the company. The analyst is predicting that the company will post $0.22 EPS for the current quarter.[89]

January 15, 2015: Max Lukenbach Writes: Social Media May Be Useful for Predicting Ting Intra-Quarter Subscriber Growth

Max Lukenbach wrote in Seeking Alpha on January 15, 2015 that Ting subscriber growth is a key component in determing Tucows valuation but since Tucows only discloses subscriber growth on a quarterly basis he has developed an alternative method to estimate growth through measuring Ting's visibility on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. "I have tracked Ting's social media growth against two of its primary peers, FreedomPop and Republic Wireless," writes Lukenbach. "I initially anticipated this to be a very casual endeavor, so that explains the limited number of MVNOs that I collected data for. I plan on adding a more MVNOs and will monitor a wider base going forward. With that said, I still argue that FreedomPop and Republic Wireless are useful and relevant comparisons."

Lukenbach's results show that Ting's Q3 to Q4 growth on Facebook was 32% compared to 13% for Freedompop and 2% for Republic Wireless. The corresponding growth on Twitter for Q3 to Q4 growth is 75% for Ting, 6% for Freedompop, and 3% for Republic. "This analysis demonstrates that Ting appeals to a younger/tech-savvy demographic, people are very happy with the product, and Ting's churn rate is likely to remain low. Furthermore, it illustrates that the company is proactive on social media, which is a low-cost and modern form of advertising."[90]

January 15, 2015: Hugh Pickens comments on Max Lukenbach's Methodology for Estimating Ting's Intra-Quarter Grwoth Rates

One of the problems for an investor in Tucows is that subscriber growth figures are only disclosed during the quarterly earnings conferences calls leaving investors in the dark outside these four times a year. This means that there are only four yearly opportunities for Tucows' investors to evaluate execution versus projections and there are only four opportunities for the growth figures to act as a catalyst on the stock valuation. Congratulations to Mr. Lukenbach for his insight that there may be a way for investors to gain some insight into subscriber growth on a more frequent basis and that there is probably a correlation between Ting social media mentions and subscriber growth. Thanks for compiling the data to date, and in developing a method that with more data and analysis will become very useful to investors in predicting Ting's intra-quarter subscriber growth. Mr. Lukenbach has provided a methodology that allows investors to make an informed estimate on subscriber growth between the quarterly conference calls. I look forward to Mr. Lukenbach gathering more data and to seeing how well social media mentions correlate with subscriber growth and churn.

I agree with Mr. Lukenbach that Tucows has been very astute in using social media as a cost effective way to publicize Ting and that this will probably have the most impact in reaching early adapters who are just the people people Ting needs to get the word out about their offering.

I am also looking forward to the rollout of the GSM offering and seeing what effect this will have on subscriber growth. I have the greatest respect for Elliot Noss' vision and his execution of Ting's growth plan and I hope that at some point he will begin providing Ting subscriber growth figures on a more frequent basis.[91]

December 23, 2014: MacroLion Writes: Ting's Profitable Growth Points To 30% Upside in Tucows Stock Price

MacroLion, a growth investor, wrote at Seeking Alpha on December 23, 2014 that:

  • Recent 10-Q reports and management calls allow us to quantify the trajectory and economics of Ting's growth. Ting will drive company EBITDA from $8m in 2013 to $19m in 2015.
  • Ting's growth is extremely profitable: it requires only S&M investments which deliver 165% IRR.
  • The rest of Tucows business in terms of revenue and gross margin is growing (retail) due to top product offering and new gTLDs.
  • 2014 10-K is the catalyst: 2014 is the first year when Ting is noticeably contributing to EBITDA. Ting's potential is under the radar for most investors.
  • Market EV/EBITDA LTM = 20.1х, EV/EBITDA 2015F = 8.1х.

"Taking Ting net customer growth as the key driver and assuming 50-150k customers range for 2015-17, we derive a target price of $20-29.," writes MacroLion. "It could be achieved in 1-1.5 years time when Ting's growth economics and trajectory are discussed in financial reports."[92]

December 23, 2014: Hugh Pickens Comments on MacroLion that He Has Come to Similar Conclusions

Hugh Pickens wrote a comment to the article in MacroLion on December 23, 2014.

Good Article. I've independently come to similar conclusions with my financial model of Ting at: http://tingmodel.com My takeaways from Tucows recent performance are that:

  • Tucows (TCX) stock price has quintupled since launching Ting in 2012.
  • Ting is the high growth business segment of Tucows.
  • Up until the 4th quarter of 2014 Ting has contributed modestly to Tucows' bottom line.
  • A financial model of Ting's past growth predicts that Ting will soon overtake domain services to become the dominant driver for Tucows' future growth.

My model shows 146,000 Ting customers by 2015F under the 16k quarterly growth scenario and 161,000 Ting customers under the 18% quarterly growth scenario which is in line with your prediction of 143,000.

I had a previous concern that problems with the Sprint network could cause customers to leave Ting and that Sprint's poor reputation could provide a drag on Ting. However, Tucows recent announcement that they will be providing nationwide GSM service (probably through T Mobile although their partner has not yet been announced) mitigates that risk and should accelerate growth in Ting's customer base since Ting will be able to provide better coverage and start selling the iPhone 6 in February 2015.

My only real concern with Tucows at this point is with their recent decision to buy a majority stake in Blue Ridge InternetWorks and enter the independent Internet service provider business space. I am concerned that this might be a mis-step that may divert resources from their other two business lines and that Tucows might be better advised to concentrate on the MVNO business segment which by 2016F will become the primary profit center for the company.[93]

July 11, 2014: 'Undiscovered Stocks' Writes: Tucows: Putting Its Customers And Shareholders First

Undiscovered Stocks, a private investor who tries to find microcap stocks that are growing and could get sell-side coverage and potential up listings as they continue to execute, wrote at Seeking Alpha on July 11, 2014 that Ting just passed the two-year mark, and has been accelerating customer adds while expanding margins at the same time. and as Ting begins to ramp considerably in the next year and beyond, the company will show significant flow-through to the bottom line.

Undiscovered Stocks writes that Ting's differentiators include:

  • Customer Service. "Ting is all about customer service. For example, when you call in, you always get a real service agent without going through the hoops of an automated prompt."
  • Honesty and Transparency. "The company culture itself is also very honest and transparent. Ting is treating its customers with respect and attention, regardless of if the customer is paying $10/month or $100/month."
  • Lower Rates. "Ting has been lowering rates but Tucows stated in the last earnings call that even though it lowered Ting’s price, the gross margins remained in the targeted range."
  • No Contracts. "Ting does not lock its users into any contracts. Customers can leave whenever they want, but due to the great customer service, the company is anecdotally experiencing less churn than other MVNOs."

According to Undiscovered Stocks, as Ting continues to become a bigger part of the revenue mix, "I expect EBITDA and cash flow to increase significantly." "Given the pace of Ting’s growth in customers, I believe that Ting will grow customers 100% in 2014, 70% in 2015, and 40% in 2016. As the operating leverage kicks in, Ting will double the overall company’s EBITDA by 2016."[94]

July 11, 2014: Hugh Pickens Writes: Elliot Noss Has Executed a Long Term Plan to Increase Stockholder Value

Hugh Pickens wrote at Seeking alpha on July 11, 2014 that Tucows CEO Elliot Noss has executed a long term plan to increase stockholder value with stock buy-backs, the reverse split, and capitalizing on Tucow's core competency in phone based customer service to enter the high growth MVNO business segment. "Noss has quadrupled Tucows' stock price since the beginning of 2012. At this point, I think there is limited downside potential given Tucows very stable and well run core business as a domain name wholesaler and a high probability of a substantial increase in the stock price within two years as we watch Tucows execute its Ting growth plan. Ting's use of social media to reduce customer acquisition cost is working to plan and Ting's infrastructure has gotten all the early bugs out and is now in place and ready to scale up for high annual subscriber growth."[95]

March 28, 2014: Mike Arnold Writes: "Tucows Is A Scrappy Tech Company Cannibalizing Itself"

Mike Arnold wrote at Seeking Alpha on March 28, 2014 that to ramp growth at Tucows, management recently introduced "what I believe is a game changing business called Ting which I believe will be a catalyst for increasing Tucows' valuation." According to Arnold, Ting appears to be catching on. "Revenues for Ting increased from $4 million in 2012 to $16.5 million in 2013, a 400%+ increase. There is plenty of tarmac for growth as well, considering the wireless communication sector is a multi-billion dollar industry and consumers are actively looking for ways to manage their monthly overhead."

Arnold says that once Ting is more established, one way to compare it might be to assess the lifetime value of the customer relationship to other subscription type businesses. "In this case, magicJack (CALL) might be a good proxy of value, as it operates in the same industry and is innovating both in terms of developing a disruptive telecommunications technology and unique value proposition for its customers. This, too, could prompt a re-rating in Tucows' shares."

Arnold concludes that at the current $140 million market cap, "I think there is little risk of permanent downside, and a rather good chance of Tucows becoming a meaningfully larger company if it executes its growth strategy (Ting) and returns value to shareholders in an accretive manner (buybacks)."[96]

Reference: Latest News About Sprint

December 15, 2014: eWeek Says Sprint Won't Seek T-Mobile Merger Again

Todd R. Weiss reported on eWeek on December 15, 2014 that Sprint's parent company, Japan's Softbank, is no longer considering a rumored second attempt to acquire T-Mobile U.S., less than four months after the first merger attempt was dropped in August. According to Weiss, following the aborted merger attempt, Sprint shook up its executive ranks by replacing its CEO, Dan Hesse, with Marcelo Claure, the founder and CEO of Brightstar, a subsidiary of Softbank. Then in December, Sprint Chief Financial Officer Joe Euteneuer announced at an investor conference that things have been getting back on track at Sprint with huge progress made in getting the company's wireless network updated. Sprint had been experiencing network problems and customer losses due to service dissatisfaction in the recent past, but the company's network build-out is now "substantially complete" and will help drive a push for more subscribers, Euteneuer said. Sprint has also started some serious attempts to increase its customer base, thanks to a half-price wireless service offer it made recently to existing customers of competitors Verizon Wireless and AT&T if they move their service to Sprint.[97]

December 7, 2014: Brian Nichols writes: Is 2015 Make or Break for Sprint?

Brian Nichols writes in an opinion piece in Seeking Alpha that Sprint has consistently lost customers for several years because of the poor quality the Sprint Network which recently was rated worst of the big four large telecoms by a survey in Consumer Reports. Sprint has recently announced an aggressive price cuttting plan, vowing to cut AT&T and Verizon customers' bills in half, in exchange for their business in the hope that aggressive pricing will lead to renewed interest in the carrier's services.

"The problem is that Sprint has lost 336,000 and 181,000 post-paid subscribers in its last two quarters, respectively," writes Nichols. "Not to mention, Sprint was recently voted the worst carrier in the U.S. by Consumer Reports. This means Sprint has to overcome quite a bit of negative consumer sentiment in its attempt to grow its subscriber base larger." According to Nichols if Sprint fails to attract new customers with its price cutting plan, it's tough to find a scenario where Sprint comes out on top. "As a result, I think a share price below $3 by the end of next year is very possible, and that a long-term price target of $0 is not out of the question. Needless to say, I would not invest in Sprint at any price, as I see no value based on the most likely of scenarios."[98]

November 20, 2014: Consumer Reports Rates Sprint as Worst Mobile Network

Brian Nichols reported at Motely Fool on December 1, 2014 that according to Consumer Reports. Sprint is the nation's worst cell phone service provider. Consumer Reports surveyed approximately 63,352 people across 26 major metropolitan areas. It found that Sprint received "dismal" marks in value, voice, text messaging, and 4G reliability. "That said, there are a few areas where Sprint's results may have been altered by consumer perception, rather than reality. For example, Sprint's wireless service plans are mostly all cheaper than the equivalent plans from AT&T and Verizon. So Sprint's "dismal" value ranking is a bit odd," writes Nichols. "Not to mention, Ting, a small carrier that ranked number one nationally in the survey actually uses Sprint's network. Ting is a mobile virtual network operator, further supporting the notion that consumer perception may be driving the results in this study."[99][100]

Consumer Reports reached out to several of the carriers in their survey for comment. Elliot Noss, CEO of Ting, was ecstatic. "What we do is actually sort of obvious," he said. "We offer fair, honest pricing that doesn't penalize customers for using too much or too little. Our customers seem to appreciate it and we certainly appreciate this recognition from them."[101]

According to Consumer Reports, Ting has perhaps the simplest plan of all—you pay a monthly fee for each device on the plan, then you are billed at the end of the month for the voice minutes and data that you use. The less you use, the less you pay. Both carriers scored high in our Ratings.[102]

Reference: Latest News About Other MVNOs

January 21, 2015: Google to Start an MVNO?

Paul Lily writes at Hot Hardware that according to subscription site The Information and the "three people with knowledge of the plans," Google will soon tap into networks belonging to Sprint and T-Mobile for its new service, buying wholesale access to mobile voice and data in order to make itself a virtual network operator. According to Lily, Google's interested in expanding its business outside of its core to "spur broader industry change." "Google's already doing this with its Google Fiber initiative, and since it's already a major player in mobile, offering cellular service isn't exactly a stretch," writes Lily adding that the project will be known as "Nova," and is reportedly being led by Google's Nick Fox, a longtime executive with the company.[103] According to Mikey Campbell Google first reached out to Sprint over a potential MVNO partnership 18 months ago and employees have already beta tested the service. Campbell adds that the carriers have reportedly taken a wary approach to the proposed deal. Sprint, for example, is said to be inserting contract terms that trigger new negotiations if Google's customer base hits a certain level.[104]

Ting Welcomes Google to the Fray

Andrew Moore-Crispin wrote on the Ting Blog of January 22, 2015 that Ting welcomes Google to the fray. "There are more than enough disenfranchised customers of the major carriers to go around. With three years in the game, we’re available to chat—to hangout, as it were—but it seems only fair that you buy whatever drinks will be had when we do." Moore-Crispin says that Google’s entry into the market will be the first a lot of people will hear about “MVNOs” as an alternative to the majors and just adds more legitimacy and helps to dispel the myth that MVNO customers get second-rate service. "We’ll out odds on our approach of putting customers in control of their devices and ultimately, their bills and of having real, human beings pick up the phone when it rings."[105]

December 12, 2014: Vodophone to Launch US Service in late 2015 with T-Mobile Targeting Wholesale Subscribers

Phil Goldstein reported on December 12, 2015 that Vodafone Group's Vodafone Americas unit is scheduled to launch in the late fall of 2015 and is being positioned as a tool for enterprises and wholesale subscribers looking to have wireless service in the U.S. Vodafone said it wants to cater to its more than 400 multinational customers based in the United States and a further 500 Vodafone multinational customers that are based outside the United States but have a "strong U.S. presence."[106]

Board of Directors of Tucows

According to the 10-k filed with the SEC on March 11, 2015 the folowing are members of Tucows Board of Directors:[107]

Allen Karp

Co-Chairman of the Board since September 2012 and Director since October 2005

Mr. Karp, 74, was with Cineplex Odeon Corporation in various positions since 1986, where he retired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2002 and as Chairman Emeritus in 2005. From 1966 to 1986, he practiced law at the law firm of Goodman and Carr LLP, where he was named partner in 1970. Mr. Karp was until recently a Director of Brookfield Real Estate Services Inc., the Chair of its corporate governance committee and sat on the audit committee, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors of IBI Group Inc., and was Chairman of the Nominating, Governance and Compensation Committee. Mr. Karp is a past director of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, where he served as Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2007 and has served as Chairman of its Corporate Governance Committee since 2007. Additionally, Mr. Karp was previously a director of several other public corporations.

Mr. Karp has extensive executive leadership skills, long-standing senior management experience, a strong ethics and compliance focus and audit committee experience. These skills and qualifications, in addition to his current service on the boards of directors of other public companies, enable him to bring valuable perspectives to our Board, particularly with respect to corporate governance matters, and qualify him to be a director of Tucows.

Rawleigh H. Ralls

Co-Chairman of the Board since September 2012 and Director since May 2009

Mr. Ralls, 52, is a founding partner of Lacuna, LLC, an investment management company focused on both public and private companies, which he formed in October 2006. Prior thereto, from 1999 to 2006, he was Chairman of Netidentity.com, an Internet email and web hosting company, where he led corporate strategy and development until the firm’s sale in 2006. Mr. Ralls currently serves on the Board of Directors of a number of companies, including Savoya, LLC, IntraOp Medical, Knowledge Factor, and Mocapay, Inc.

Mr. Ralls has a wealth of industry experience, most notably the experience that he gained through his leadership of Netidentity.com. In addition, Mr. Ralls contributes a unique perspective to the Board’s discussions and considerations based on the two decades of investing and portfolio management experience. All of these attributes qualify Mr. Ralls to be a director of Tucows.

Erez Gissin

Director since August 2001

Mr. Gissin, 56, has served since 2010 as a managing partner in Helios Energy Investment, a Renewable Energy investment fund, and since 2005 as the Chief Executive Officer of BCID Ltd., an investment company focusing on infrastructure development projects in China. From July 2000 to March 2005, Mr. Gissin has served as the Chief Executive Officer of IP Planet Networks Ltd., an Israeli satellite communication operator providing Internet backbone connectivity and solutions to Internet Service Providers. From July 1995 to July 2000, Mr. Gissin was Vice President, Business Development of Eurocom Communications Ltd., a holding company that controls several telecommunications services, equipment and Internet companies in Israel.

Mr. Gissin has a strong background in the internet communications industry and has gained significant institutional knowledge in his long tenure as one of our directors. Mr. Gissin also has significant leadership experience as the Chief Executive Officer of BCID Ltd. and IP Planet Networks Ltd. and has extensive financial acumen derived from his years of executive experience. All of these qualities qualify Mr. Gissin to be a director of Tucows.

Joichi Ito

Director since December 2008

Mr. Ito, 48, is the director of the MIT Media Lab. He is a co-founder of Digital Garage (Tokyo Stock Exchange 4819), where he has served on the board since September 2006. Mr. Ito has been a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Times Corporation since June 2012 and of Sony Corporation since June 2013.

From June 2002 until July 2008, Mr. Ito served on the board of Pia Corporation, a ticket and entertainment magazine company in Japan (Tokyo Stock Exchange 4337). He served on the board of ICANN, a U.S. non-profit corporation, from December 2004 until December 2007. ICANN manages the domain name registration system that Tucows uses for its domain name business and ICANN receives fees from Tucows for domain name registrations.

Mr. Ito is also on the board of directors of a number of non-profit organizations, including The Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and The Mozilla Foundation. He has created numerous Internet companies, including PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan and was an early stage investor in Twitter, Six Apart, Flickr, Dopplr, Last.fm, Kickstarter, Formlabs and littleBits. He has served and continues to serve on various Japanese central as well as local government committees and boards, advising the government on IT, privacy and computer security related issues.

Mr. Ito has extensive experience as a director of a number of publicly traded companies and has a wide range of experience with internet companies generally. This experience, along with Mr. Ito’s domain specific knowledge, enables him to bring key experience to the Company and qualifies him to be a director of Tucows.

Elliot Noss

Director since August 2001

Mr. Noss, 52, is our President and Chief Executive Officer and has served in such capacity since the completion of our merger with Tucows Delaware in August 2001. From May 1999 until completion of the merger in August 2001, Mr. Noss served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Tucows Delaware. Before that, from April 1997 to May 1999, Mr. Noss served as Vice President of Corporate Services of Tucows Interactive Ltd., which was acquired by Tucows Delaware in May 1999.

Mr. Noss’s lengthy service as our Chief Executive Officer has provided him with extensive knowledge of, and experience with, Tucows’ operations, strategy and financial position. In addition, Mr. Noss has widespread knowledge of the internet and software industry generally that, coupled with his operational expertise, qualifies him to be a director of Tucows.

Jeffrey Schwartz

Director since June 2005

Mr. Schwartz, 52, has served as a director of Dorel Industries since 1987 and as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since 2003. Mr. Schwartz is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal and has a degree in the field of business administration.

Mr. Schwartz has a significant amount of public-company financial expertise, particularly in his executive experience as the chief financial officer of Dorel Industries, Inc. This executive experience, along with Mr. Schwartz’s service as one of our Audit Committee members (and as Chairman of our Audit Committee since 2005), qualifies him to be a director of Tucows.

Robin Chase

Director since October 2014

Ms Chase, 56, is a transportation entrepreneur. She is founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest car sharing company in the world; Buzzcar, a service that brings together car owners and drivers in a car sharing marketplace in France; and GoLoco, an online ridesharing community. She is also Executive Chairman of Veniam, a vehicle communications company building the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things.

Ms Chase is on the Boards of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the World Resources Institute, and Tucows. She also served on the National Advisory Council for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the US Department of Commerce, the Intelligent Transportations Systems Program Advisory Committee for the US Department of Transportation, the OECD’s International Transport Forum Advisory Board the Massachusetts Governor’s Transportation Transition Working Group, and Boston Mayor’s Wireless Task Force.

Ms Chase lectures widely, has been frequently featured in the major media, and has received many awards in the areas of innovation, design, and environment, including Time 100 Most Influential People, Fast Company Fast 50 Innovators, and BusinessWeek Top 10 Designers. Robin graduated from Wellesley College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow, and received an honorary Doctorate of Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Her experience operating companies at the CEO level along with her numerous experiences on these boards and councils qualify her to be a director of Tucows.

Principal Shareholders of Tucows

According to the 10-k filed with the SEC on March 11, 2015 the folowing are principal shareholders of Tucows:[108]

Osmium Partners, LLC

960,269 Shares

8.7%

300 Drakes Landing Road, Suite 172, Greenbrae, CA 94904

Renaissance Technologies LLC

615,135 Shares

5.5%

800 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022

Elliot Noss

764,833 Shares

6.9%

96 Mowat Avenue, Toronto, ON M6K 3M1

External Links

Financials and Earnings Reports Overview

Earnings Reports Referenced in This Document

2014

2013

Financial Statements Referenced in This Document

2014

2013

Tucows 10-K Filing with SEC

Transcripts of Earnings Converences Referenced in This Document

2014

2013

History of Ting

Competitive Analysis

Canadian Dollar

Tools

Archive of Previous Versions of This Article

Other Stocks I Invest in and Monitor

References

  1. Android Headlines. "Ting Rates Among Highest Wireless Providers For Satisfaction In Latest Consumer Reports Survey" by Justin Diaz. November 20, 2014.
  2. Android Headlines. "Ting Rates Among Highest Wireless Providers For Satisfaction In Latest Consumer Reports Survey" by Justin Diaz. November 20, 2014.
  3. Tucows' (TCX) Q3 2014 Results
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About the Author

Hugh Pickens

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, crossed the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center all over the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows nine acres of lawn, writes about local history and photographs events at the Poncan Theatre and Ponca Playhouse.

Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. His other writing includes contributing over 1,500 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, “Ponca City, We Love You”, and Peace Corps Worldwide.

Disclaimer

I am long term investor in Tucows. The purpose of this web site is to monitor my investment in Tucows and to do that I compile information and news releases including earnings reports, earnings conferences calls, press releases, and independent reporting on Tucows and Ting. In addition I have built a financial earnings model keep track of how Ting has performed in the past and make predictions on how it will perform in the future.

This web site is not affiliated in any way with Tucows. This web site is operated by a private investor who owns stock in the company and uses this web site to follow the company. All information on this web site comes from publicly available sources. Nothing in this report is to be taken as a recommendation to buy or to sell stock in Tucows.

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This web page is frequently updated so check back periodically to see the latest information or subscribe to the rss feed for this article. If you have any information or insights that you would like to see added to this report please contact Hugh Pickens by email at hughpickens AT gmail DOT com.

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The material in this article is licensed under under the Creative Commons under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Except for short, fair use excerpts, the material on this article cannot be used for commercial purposes without permission of Hugh Pickens. Attribution for use of any material from this article must be provided to Hugh Pickens and if used on the web a link must be provided to http://hughpickens.com.

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