Sabtu, 31 Mei 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Embarq Corp. will hold onto its wireless customer base for the time being, but could hand it over to another carrier next year, the company's chief financial officer said Wednesday.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., at an analyst conference broadcast on the Web, Gene Betts said the company would continue serving those customers until at least 2009.

"After that, we may decide to transition them to a carrier," he said.

Embarq, the nation's fourth-largest landline phone company, sold wireless services in its 18-state market through a partnership with Sprint Nextel Corp., which spun off the Overland Park, Kan.-based company in 2006. The service was sold in package deals aimed at improving competition with cable companies, which have increasingly gone after traditional telephone customer bases.

Embarq stopped marketing the service after the first of the year, however, because sales weren't meeting internal expectations. Betts said Embarq envisioned drawing 1 million or more wireless customers but ended up with only 112,000 by the end of 2007.

"It was becoming apparent that we couldn't obtain enough wireless customers to make a big difference," Betts said.

He said the company will instead continue developing and selling products that better combine home and wireless phone service, such as features that transfer phone calls seamlessly between the two or provide unified voicemail.

"We're trying to make functionality that integrates with any wireless device and isn't tied to a particular carrier," he said.

Betts said Embarq, which has struggled like other traditional telephone companies as customers drop landline service in favor of wireless or Internet-based telephone carriers, is looking to move into other arenas to boost revenue.

For example, the company has begun offering home computer repair service in some markets, taking advantage of high demand and the company's large pool of field technicians, he said.

"Maybe we could act as the CIO for residences and small business," he said. "We're just trialing it to see if it makes sense."

Embarq shares gained 76 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $45.75 Wednesday.


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