EX-13 5 usm201810-kexhibit13.htm EXHIBIT 13 Exhibit
Exhibit 13
 
 
 
United States Cellular Corporation and Subsidiaries
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
FINANCIAL REPORTS CONTENTS
 
Page No.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



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United States Cellular Corporation
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of
Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Executive Overview
The following Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) should be read in conjunction with the audited consolidated financial statements and notes of United States Cellular Corporation (U.S. Cellular) for the year ended December 31, 2018, and with the description of U.S. Cellular’s business included herein. Certain numbers included herein are rounded to millions for ease of presentation; however, certain calculated amounts and percentages are determined using the unrounded numbers.
This report contains statements that are not based on historical facts, including the words “believes,” “anticipates,” “estimates,” “expects,” “plans,” “intends,” “projects” and similar expressions. These statements constitute and represent “forward looking statements” as this term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, events or developments to be significantly different from any future results, events or developments expressed or implied by such forward looking statements. See Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 Safe Harbor Cautionary Statement for additional information.
U.S. Cellular uses certain “non-GAAP financial measures” and each such measure is identified in the MD&A. A discussion of the reason U.S. Cellular determines these metrics to be useful and a reconciliation of these measures to their most directly comparable measures determined in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAP) are included in the Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures section within the MD&A of this Form 10-K Report.

1


General
U.S. Cellular owns, operates, and invests in wireless markets throughout the United States. U.S. Cellular is an 82%-owned subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (TDS). U.S. Cellular’s strategy is to attract and retain wireless customers through a value proposition comprised of a high-quality network, outstanding customer service, and competitive devices, plans, and pricing, all provided with a local focus.
OPERATIONS
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Serves customers with 5.0 million connections including 4.5 million postpaid, 0.5 million prepaid and 0.1 million reseller and other connections
Operates in 22 states
Employs approximately 5,600 associates
6,531 cell sites including 4,129 owned towers in service
 

2


Financial and Operational Highlights
The following is a summary of certain selected information contained in the comprehensive MD&A that follows. The overview does not contain all of the information that may be important. You should carefully read the entire MD&A and not rely solely on the highlights.
Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders was $150 million in 2018, compared to $12 million in 2017. Diluted earnings per share was $1.72 in 2018 compared to $0.14 a year ago.
Total additions to Property, plant and equipment were $515 million, including expenditures to (i) enhance and maintain U.S. Cellular's network coverage, including continuing to deploy VoLTE technology in certain markets and providing additional capacity to accommodate increased data usage, by current customers; and (ii) invest in information technology to support existing and new services and products.
Trends and Developments
U.S. Cellular’s mission is to provide exceptional wireless communication services which enhance consumers’ lives, increase the competitiveness of local businesses, and improve the efficiency of government operations in the mid-sized and rural markets served.
Network and Technology:
U.S. Cellular continues to devote efforts to enhance its network capabilities. VoLTE technology has been launched successfully in California, Iowa, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, and deployments in several additional operating markets will occur in 2019. VoLTE technology allows customers to utilize a 4G LTE network for both voice and data services, and offers enhanced services such as high definition voice and simultaneous voice and data sessions. In addition, the deployment of VoLTE technology expands U.S. Cellular’s ability to offer roaming services to other wireless carriers. 
5G technology is expected to help address customers’ growing demand for data services as well as create opportunities for new services requiring high speed and reliability as well as low latency. U.S. Cellular is committed to continuous technology innovation and continues to prepare for deployment of 5G technology beginning in 2019, including commencing a trial utilizing 5G standards and equipment on its core LTE network in the fourth quarter of 2018. U.S. Cellular is partnering with leading companies in the wireless infrastructure and handset ecosystem to provide rich 5G experiences for customers. In addition, in the markets where U.S. Cellular commercially deploys 5G technology, which will include cities and towns large and small, customers using U.S. Cellular’s 4G LTE network will experience increased network speed due to U.S. Cellular's modernization efforts.  
Asset Management:
U.S. Cellular assesses its existing wireless interests on an ongoing basis with a goal of improving the competitiveness of its operations and maximizing its long-term return on capital. As part of this strategy, U.S. Cellular actively seeks attractive opportunities to acquire wireless spectrum, including pursuant to FCC auctions. In 2018, U.S. Cellular acquired $26 million of spectrum licenses through purchase and exchange transactions and divested $12 million of spectrum licenses covering non-strategic areas through sale and exchange transactions. In October 2018, the FCC announced that U.S. Cellular was a qualified bidder for Auction 101, which covered spectrum licenses that are expected to be used primarily to deliver 5G technology. Auction 101 closed on January 24, 2019 but the results of the auction have not yet been announced.
Services and Products:
U.S. Cellular’s customers are able to choose from a variety of national plans with voice, messaging and data usage options and pricing that are designed to fit different customer needs, usage patterns and budgets. In 2018, U.S. Cellular introduced the Unlimited with Payback plan that provides a monthly bill credit to postpaid customers if they have used less than 3 gigabytes of data per line.   
U.S. Cellular offers a comprehensive range of wireless devices such as handsets, tablets, modems, and hotspots. In addition, U.S. Cellular also offers a wide range of accessories, including wireless basics such as cases, screen protectors, chargers, and memory cards as well as an assortment of consumer electronics such as headphones, smart speakers, wearables and home automation products (e.g. cameras, sensors, and thermostats). U.S. Cellular offers certain of these products for purchase on installment plans, which allow new and existing postpaid customers to purchase these products payable over a specified time period.

3


Terms Used by U.S. Cellular
The following is a list of definitions of certain industry terms that are used throughout this document:
4G LTEfourth generation Long-Term Evolution, which is a wireless technology that enables more network capacity for more data per user as well as faster access to data compared to third generation (3G) technology.
5Gfifth generation wireless technology that is expected to help address customers’ growing demand for data services as well as create opportunities for new services requiring high speed and reliability as well as low latency.
Account – represents an individual or business financially responsible for one or multiple associated connections. An account may include a variety of types of connections such as handsets and connected devices.
ASU 2014-09 – the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, including any subsequent modifications to such guidance. This ASU replaces existing revenue recognition rules with a single comprehensive model to use in accounting for revenue arising from contracts with customers.
Auctions 101 and 102 Auction 101 is an FCC auction of 28 GHz spectrum licenses that started in November 2018 and concluded in January 2019. Auction 102 is an FCC auction of 24 GHz spectrum licenses that is expected to start in early 2019. The spectrum auctioned in each of these auctions, referred to as Millimeter Wave spectrum, is expected to be used primarily to deliver 5G technology.
Auctions 1000, 1001, and 1002 – Auction 1000 is an FCC auction of 600 MHz spectrum licenses that started in 2016 and concluded in 2017 involving: (1) a “reverse auction” in which broadcast television licensees submitted bids to voluntarily relinquish spectrum usage rights in exchange for payments (referred to as Auction 1001); (2) a “repacking” of the broadcast television bands in order to free up certain broadcast spectrum for other uses; and (3) a “forward auction” of licenses for spectrum cleared through this process to be used for wireless communications (referred to as Auction 1002).
Churn Rate – represents the percentage of the connections that disconnect service each month. These rates represent the average monthly churn rate for each respective period.
Connections - individual lines of service associated with each device activated by a customer. Connections are associated with all types of devices that connect directly to the U.S. Cellular network.
Connected Devices – non-handset devices that connect directly to the U.S. Cellular network. Connected devices include products such as tablets, wearables, modems, and hotspots.
EBITDA – refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and accretion and is used in the non-GAAP metric Adjusted EBITDA throughout this document. See Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for additional information.
Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) – designation by states for providing specified services in “high cost” areas which enables participation in universal service support mechanisms.
Free Cash Flow – non-GAAP metric defined as Cash flows from operating activities less Cash paid for additions to property, plant and equipment. See Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for additional information.
Gross Additions – represents the total number of new connections added during the period, without regard to connections that were terminated during that period.
Net Additions – represents the total number of new connections added during the period, net of connections that were terminated during that period.
OIBDA – refers to operating income before depreciation, amortization and accretion and is used in the non-GAAP metric Adjusted OIBDA throughout this document. See Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for additional information.
Partial Economic Areas – service areas of certain FCC licenses based on geography.
Postpaid Average Billings per Account (Postpaid ABPA) – non-GAAP metric which is calculated by dividing total postpaid service revenues plus equipment installment plan billings by the average number of postpaid accounts and by the number of months in the period. See Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for additional information.
Postpaid Average Billings per User (Postpaid ABPU) – non-GAAP metric which is calculated by dividing total postpaid service revenues plus equipment installment plan billings by the average number of postpaid connections and by the number of months in the period. See Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for additional information.
Postpaid Average Revenue per Account (Postpaid ARPA) – metric which is calculated by dividing total postpaid service revenues by the average number of postpaid accounts and by the number of months in the period.
Postpaid Average Revenue per User (Postpaid ARPU) – metric which is calculated by dividing total postpaid service revenues by the average number of postpaid connections and by the number of months in the period.
Retail Connections – the sum of postpaid connections and prepaid connections.
Tax Act – refers to comprehensive federal tax legislation enacted on December 22, 2017, which made broad changes to the U.S. tax code. Now titled H.R.1, the Tax Act was originally identified as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Universal Service Fund (USF) – a system of telecommunications collected fees and support payments managed by the FCC intended to promote universal access to telecommunications services in the United States.
VoLTE – Voice over Long-Term Evolution is a technology specification that defines the standards and procedures for delivering voice communications and related services over 4G LTE networks.



4


Operational Overview
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As of December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
Retail Connections – End of Period
Postpaid
4,472,000
 
4,518,000
 
4,482,000
Prepaid
516,000
 
519,000
 
484,000
Total
4,988,000
 
5,037,000
 
4,966,000
Year Ended December 31,
2018

 
2017

 
2016

Postpaid Activity and Churn
 
 
 
 
 
Gross Additions
 
 
 
 
 
Handsets
475,000

 
490,000

 
479,000

Connected Devices
150,000

 
198,000

 
294,000

Total Gross Additions
625,000

 
688,000

 
773,000

Net Additions (Losses)
 
 
 
 
 
Handsets
23,000

 
38,000

 
(70,000)

Connected Devices
(69,000)

 
(2,000)

 
143,000

Total Net Additions (Losses)
(46,000)

 
36,000

 
73,000

Churn
 
 
 
 
 
Handsets
0.98
%
 
0.99
%
 
1.18
%
Connected Devices
2.96
%
 
2.52
%
 
2.11
%
Total Churn
1.25
%
 
1.21
%
 
1.31
%
2018-2017 Commentary
Postpaid net additions decreased in 2018 due primarily to lower gross additions, as well as an increase in tablet churn. The decrease in connected devices gross additions reflects U.S. Cellular‘s decision to discontinue promotions of heavily discounted tablets in 2018.
2017-2016 Commentary
Postpaid net additions decreased in 2017 mainly due to lower connected devices net additions which reflected both lower tablet gross additions and an increase in tablet churn. The decline in tablet gross additions reflects industry-wide trends including (i) reduced consumer demand for network-connected tablets, and (ii) carriers including U.S. Cellular have curtailed promotions of heavily discounted tablets designed to stimulate demand due to poor economics. The decrease in connected devices net additions was partially offset by an improvement in handsets net additions driven by both higher gross additions and a decrease in churn.


5


Postpaid Revenue
Year Ended December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
$
44.98

 
$
44.38

 
$
46.96

Average Billings Per User (ABPU)1
$
58.67

 
$
55.60

 
$
56.12

 
 
 
 
 
 
Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA)
$
118.93

 
$
118.96

 
$
124.09

Average Billings Per Account (ABPA)1
$
155.11

 
$
149.02

 
$
148.29

1 
Postpaid ABPU and Postpaid ABPA are non-GAAP financial measures. Refer to Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for a reconciliation of these measures.

2018-2017 Commentary
On January 1, 2018, U.S Cellular adopted the provisions of ASU 2014-09, using a modified retrospective method. Under this method, the new accounting standard is applied only to the most recent period presented, recognizing the cumulative effect of the accounting change as an adjustment to retained earnings at January 1, 2018. See Note 2 — Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional details.
Postpaid ARPU increased in 2018 due primarily to several factors including: increases in device protection plan and regulatory recovery revenues as well as having proportionately more handset connections, which on a per-unit basis contribute more revenue than tablet connections. Such factors were partially offset by the impact of adopting the provisions of ASU 2014-09, as well as the impact of overall price reductions on plan offerings. Postpaid ARPA decreased slightly in 2018 due primarily to a decrease in postpaid connections per account driven by higher tablet churn. Application of the new accounting standard had the impact of reducing ARPU and ARPA by $0.21 and $0.55, respectively.
Under equipment installment plans, customers pay for their wireless devices in installments over a period of time. In order to show the trend in estimated cash collections from postpaid customer billings for service and equipment, U.S. Cellular has presented Postpaid ABPU and Postpaid ABPA, which are calculated as Postpaid ARPU and Postpaid ARPA plus average monthly installment plan billings per connection and account, respectively.
Postpaid ABPU and ABPA increased in 2018 due primarily to (i) an increase in equipment installment plan billings driven by increased penetration of equipment installment plans and (ii) a higher average price per device sold.
2017-2016 Commentary
Postpaid ARPU and Postpaid ARPA decreased in 2017 due primarily to industry-wide price competition resulting in overall price reductions on plan offerings.
Equipment installment plan billings increased in 2017 due to increased penetration of equipment installment plans. Postpaid ABPU decreased in 2017 as the increase in equipment installment plan billings was more than offset by the decline in Postpaid ARPU discussed above. Postpaid ABPA, however, increased slightly in 2017 as the increase in equipment installment plan billings more than offset the decline in Postpaid ARPA discussed above.

6


Financial Overview
Year Ended December 31,
20181
 
2017
 
2016
 
2018 vs. 2017
 
2017 vs. 2016
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Retail service
$
2,623

 
$
2,589

 
$
2,700

 
1
 %
 
(4
)%
Inbound roaming
154

 
129

 
152

 
20
 %
 
(15
)%
Other
201

 
260

 
229

 
(23
)%
 
13
 %
Service revenues
2,978

 
2,978

 
3,081

 

 
(3
)%
Equipment sales
989

 
912

 
909

 
8
 %
 

Total operating revenues
3,967

 
3,890

 
3,990

 
2
 %
 
(3
)%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
System operations (excluding Depreciation, amortization and accretion reported below)
758

 
732

 
760

 
4
 %
 
(4
)%
Cost of equipment sold
1,031

 
1,071

 
1,081

 
(4
)%
 
(1
)%
Selling, general and administrative
1,388

 
1,412

 
1,480

 
(2
)%
 
(4
)%
Depreciation, amortization and accretion
640

 
615

 
618

 
4
 %
 

Loss on impairment of goodwill

 
370

 

 
N/M

 
N/M

(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
10

 
17

 
22

 
(40
)%
 
(22
)%
(Gain) loss on sale of business and other exit costs, net

 
(1
)
 

 
N/M

 
N/M

(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
(18
)
 
(22
)
 
(19
)
 
20
 %
 
(17
)%
Total operating expenses
3,809

 
4,194

 
3,942

 
(9
)%
 
6
 %
Operating income (loss)
$
158

 
$
(304
)
 
$
48

 
N/M

 
N/M

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income
$
164

 
$
15

 
$
49

 
N/M

 
(70
)%
Adjusted OIBDA (Non-GAAP)2
$
790

 
$
675

 
$
669

 
17
 %
 
1
 %
Adjusted EBITDA (Non-GAAP)2
$
963

 
$
820

 
$
816

 
17
 %
 
1
 %
Capital expenditures
$
515

 
$
469

 
$
446

 
10
 %
 
5
 %
N/M - Percentage change not meaningful
1 
As of January 1, 2018, U.S. Cellular adopted ASU 2014-09 using a modified retrospective approach. Under this method, the new accounting standard is applied only to the most recent period presented. See Note 2Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
2 
Refer to Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures within this MD&A for a reconciliation of this measure.

7


 
Operating Revenues
(Dollars in millions)
chart-39ade25aaec65809be6.jpg
Service revenues consist of: 
Retail Service – Charges for access, airtime, recovery of regulatory costs and value added services, including data services and products
Inbound Roaming – Charges to other wireless carriers whose customers use U.S. Cellular’s wireless systems when roaming
Other Service – Amounts received from the Federal USF and tower rental revenues. Imputed interest on equipment installment plan contracts is included in 2017; however, it is not included in 2018 due to the impact of adopting the provisions of ASU 2014-09
Equipment revenues consist of:
Sales of wireless devices and related accessories to new and existing customers, agents, and third-party distributors
 
Key components of changes in the statement of operations line items were as follows:
2018-2017 Commentary
Total operating revenues
Retail service revenues increased in 2018 primarily as a result of the changes in Postpaid ARPU as previously discussed in the Operational Overview section.
Inbound roaming revenues increased in 2018 primarily driven by data traffic, with significantly higher usage partially offset by lower rates.
Other service revenues decreased year over year, reflecting the exclusion of imputed interest income in 2018 due to the impact of adopting the provisions of ASU 2014-09. The impact of imputed interest income was $73 million in 2017. Federal USF revenues remained flat year over year at $92 million. See the Regulatory Matters section in this MD&A for a description of the Phase II Connect America Mobility Fund (MF2 Order) and its expected impacts on U.S. Cellular’s Federal USF support.
Equipment sales revenues increased in 2018 due primarily to the impact of adopting the provisions of ASU 2014-09 and an increase in the average revenue per device sold. Such factors were partially offset by a decrease in the number of devices sold.
See Note 2 — Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional details on the financial statement impact of ASU 2014-09.

8


System operations expenses
System operations expenses increased in 2018 due primarily to higher maintenance, utility and cell site rent expenses largely reflecting the growth in cell sites and other network facilities as U.S. Cellular continues to add capacity, enhance quality, and deploy new technologies.
Cost of equipment sold
Cost of equipment sold decreased in 2018 due primarily to a decrease in the number of devices sold, partially offset by an increase due to a higher average cost per device sold. Loss on equipment, defined as Equipment sales revenues less Cost of equipment sold, was $42 million and $159 million for 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Selling, general and administrative expenses
Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased in 2018 due primarily to lower sales commissions.
Depreciation, amortization and accretion
Depreciation, amortization, and accretion increased in 2018 due to additional network assets being placed into service as well as an increase in amortization expense related to billing system upgrades.
(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
Loss on asset disposals, net decreased primarily as a result of fewer disposals of certain network assets.
(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
Net gains in 2018 and 2017 were due to gains recognized on license sale and exchange transactions with various third parties.
2017-2016 Commentary
Total operating revenues
Service revenues decreased as a result of (i) a decrease in retail service revenues driven by industry-wide price competition resulting in overall price reductions on plan offerings; and (ii) a decrease in inbound roaming revenue mainly due to lower roaming rates. Such reductions were partially offset by an increase in imputed interest income due to an increase in the total number of active equipment installment plans.
Federal USF revenue remained flat year over year at $92 million. See the Regulatory Matters section in this MD&A for a description of the FCC Mobility Fund Phase II Order (MF2 Order) and its expected impacts on U.S. Cellular’s current Federal USF support.
Equipment sales revenues increased by a modest amount year over year reflecting an increase in average revenue per device sold, a mix shift to higher end smartphone devices and, to a lesser extent, an increase in accessories revenues. Such increases were almost entirely offset by a decrease in the number of devices sold, a reduction in guarantee liability amortization for equipment installment contracts as a result of changes in plan offerings, and lower device activation fees.
System operations expenses
System operations expenses decreased in 2017 as a result of (i) a decrease in customer usage expenses driven mainly by decreased circuit costs; and (ii) a decrease in roaming expenses driven primarily by lower roaming rates, partially offset by increased data roaming usage.
Cost of equipment sold
Cost of equipment sold decreased mainly due to a reduction in the number of devices sold partially offset by a mix shift from feature phones and connected devices to higher cost smartphones. Loss on equipment was $159 million and $172 million for 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Selling, general and administrative expenses
Selling expenses decreased by $26 million due to lower advertising expenses, including a decrease in sponsorship expenses related to the termination of a naming rights agreement in 2016. Such reductions were partially offset by an increase in commissions expenses.
General and administrative expenses decreased by $42 million mainly due to lower expenses for bad debts and phone programs, along with reductions in numerous other general and administrative expense categories. 
Loss on impairment of goodwill
In 2017, U.S. Cellular recorded a $370 million loss on impairment related to goodwill. See Note 7Intangible Assets in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information. 

9


(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
Loss on asset disposals, net decreased primarily as a result of fewer disposals of certain network assets.
(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
The net gains in 2017 and 2016 were due to license exchange transactions with third parties. 
Components of Other Income (Expense)
Year Ended December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2018 vs. 2017
 
2017 vs. 2016
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Operating income (loss)
$
158

 
$
(304
)
 
$
48

 
N/M

 
N/M

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
159

 
137

 
140

 
16
 %
 
(2
)%
Interest and dividend income
15

 
8

 
6

 
83
 %
 
40
 %
Interest expense
(116
)
 
(113
)
 
(113
)
 
(3
)%
 

Other, net
(1
)
 

 
1

 
N/M

 
(19
)%
Total investment and other income
57

 
32

 
34

 
76
 %
 
(1
)%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Income (loss) before income taxes
215

 
(272
)
 
82

 
N/M

 
N/M

Income tax expense (benefit)
51

 
(287
)
 
33

 
N/M

 
N/M

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income
164

 
15

 
49

 
N/M

 
(70
)%
Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, net of tax
14

 
3

 
1

 
N/M

 
56
 %
Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders
$
150

 
$
12

 
$
48

 
N/M

 
(74
)%
N/M - Percentage change not meaningful
2018-2017 Commentary
Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities represents U.S. Cellular’s share of net income from entities in which it has a noncontrolling interest and that are accounted for using the equity method. U.S. Cellular’s investment in the Los Angeles SMSA Limited Partnership (LA Partnership) contributed $77 million and $66 million in earnings of unconsolidated entities in 2018 and 2017, respectively. See Note 8 — Investments in Unconsolidated Entities in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Interest and dividend income
Interest and dividend income increased as a result of an increase in the money market investments balance, classified within Cash and cash equivalents, in 2018.
Income tax expense (benefit)
The effective tax rate on Income before income taxes for 2018 was 23.7%, which is consistent with a normalized tax rate inclusive of federal and state tax.
The overall effective tax rate for 2017 was not meaningful due to the effect of the Tax Act combined with the tax impact of the impairment of goodwill, since portions of the goodwill balance are not amortizable for income tax purposes.
See Note 5Income Taxes in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, net of tax
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, net of tax increased in 2018, due primarily to an out-of-period adjustment recorded in the first quarter of 2018. U.S. Cellular determined that this adjustment was not material to any of the periods impacted. See Note 13 — Variable Interest Entities in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.


10


2017-2016 Commentary
Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
U.S. Cellular’s investment in the Los Angeles SMSA Limited Partnership (LA Partnership) contributed $66 million and $71 million to Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities in 2017 and 2016, respectively. See Note 8Investments in Unconsolidated Entities in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Income tax expense (benefit)
The overall effective tax rate for 2017 is not meaningful due to the effect of the Tax Act combined with the impaired goodwill, since portions of the goodwill balance are not amortizable for income tax purposes. U.S. Cellular's effective tax rate on Income before taxes for 2016 was 39.7% and was consistent with a normalized tax rate inclusive of federal and state tax – note that the federal statutory rate prior to the Tax Act was 35%.
See Note 5Income Taxes in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, net of tax
The increase year over year is due to higher income from certain partnerships in 2017.

11


Liquidity and Capital Resources
 

Sources of Liquidity
U.S. Cellular operates a capital-intensive business. Historically, U.S. Cellular has used internally-generated funds and also has obtained substantial funds from external sources for general corporate purposes. In the past, U.S. Cellular’s existing cash and investment balances, funds available under its revolving credit agreement, receivables securitization agreement, funds from other financing sources, including a term loan and other long-term debt, and cash flows from operating, and certain investing and financing activities, including sales of assets or businesses, provided sufficient liquidity and financial flexibility for U.S. Cellular to meet its normal day-to-day operating needs and debt service requirements, to finance the build-out and enhancement of markets and to fund acquisitions, primarily of spectrum licenses. There is no assurance that this will be the case in the future. See Market Risk for additional information regarding maturities of long-term debt.
Although U.S. Cellular currently has a significant cash balance, U.S. Cellular has incurred negative free cash flow at times in the past and this could occur in the future. However, U.S. Cellular believes that existing cash and investment balances, funds available under its revolving credit agreement, receivables securitization agreement and expected cash flows from operating and investing activities will provide sufficient liquidity for U.S. Cellular to meet its normal day-to-day operating needs and debt service requirements for the coming year. 
U.S. Cellular may require substantial additional capital for, among other uses, funding day-to-day operating needs including working capital, acquisitions of providers of wireless telecommunications services, spectrum license or system acquisitions, capital expenditures, debt service requirements, the repurchase of shares, the payment of dividends, or making additional investments. U.S. Cellular plans to participate in spectrum auctions in 2019 (see Regulatory Matters - Millimeter Wave Spectrum Auctions), and expects capital expenditures to increase in 2019 relative to 2018 levels, due primarily to investments to enhance network speed and capacity and begin deploying 5G. It may be necessary from time to time to increase the size of the existing revolving credit agreement, to put in place a new credit agreement, or to obtain other forms of financing in order to fund potential expenditures. U.S. Cellular’s liquidity would be adversely affected if, among other things, U.S. Cellular is unable to obtain short- or long-term financing on acceptable terms, U.S. Cellular makes significant spectrum license purchases, the LA Partnership discontinues or significantly reduces distributions compared to historical levels, or Federal USF and/or other regulatory support payments decline.
U.S. Cellular’s credit rating currently is sub-investment grade. There can be no assurance that sufficient funds will continue to be available to U.S. Cellular or its subsidiaries on terms or at prices acceptable to U.S. Cellular. Insufficient cash flows from operating activities, changes in U.S. Cellular's credit ratings, defaults of the terms of debt or credit agreements, uncertainty of access to capital, deterioration in the capital markets, reduced regulatory capital at banks which in turn limits their ability to borrow and lend, other changes in the performance of U.S. Cellular or in market conditions or other factors could limit or restrict the availability of financing on terms and prices acceptable to U.S. Cellular, which could require U.S. Cellular to reduce its acquisition, capital expenditure and business development programs, reduce the acquisition of spectrum licenses, and/or reduce or cease share repurchases and/or the payment of dividends. Any of the foregoing developments would have an adverse impact on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. U.S. Cellular cannot provide assurance that circumstances that could have a material adverse effect on its liquidity or capital resources will not occur.
Cash and Cash Equivalents
Cash and cash equivalents include cash and money market investments. The primary objective of U.S. Cellular’s Cash and cash equivalents is for use in its operations and acquisition, capital expenditure and business development programs.
 
Cash and Cash Equivalents
(Dollars in millions)
chart-39c1d6d4f2d75cadaa0.jpg
 


At December 31, 2018, U.S. Cellular’s Cash and cash equivalents totaled $580 million compared to $352 million and $586 million at December 31, 2017 and December 31, 2016, respectively.
The majority of U.S. Cellular’s Cash and cash equivalents is held in bank deposit accounts and in money market funds that purchase only debt issued by the U.S. Treasury or U.S. government agencies across a range of eligible money market investments that may include, but are not limited to, government agency repurchase agreements, government agency debt, U.S. Treasury repurchase agreements, U.S. Treasury debt, and other securities collateralized by U.S. government obligations. U.S. Cellular monitors the financial viability of the money market funds and direct investments in which it invests and believes that the credit risk associated with these investments is low.
 

12


Financing
Revolving Credit Agreement
U.S. Cellular has an unsecured revolving credit agreement available for general corporate purposes including spectrum purchases and capital expenditures. In May 2018, U.S. Cellular entered into a new $300 million revolving credit agreement with certain lenders and other parties. Amounts under the revolving credit agreement may be borrowed, repaid and reborrowed from time to time until maturity in May 2023. As a result of the new agreement, U.S. Cellular's previous revolving credit agreement due to expire in June 2021 was terminated. As of December 31, 2018, there were no outstanding borrowings under the revolving credit agreement, except for letters of credit, and U.S. Cellular’s unused capacity under its revolving credit agreement was $298 million. The continued availability of the revolving credit agreement requires U.S. Cellular to comply with certain negative and affirmative covenants, maintain certain financial ratios and provide representations on certain matters at the time of each borrowing. U.S. Cellular believes it was in compliance as of December 31, 2018, with all of the financial covenants and requirements set forth in its revolving credit agreement. See Financial Covenants below.
See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the revolving credit agreement.
Term Loan
In January 2015, U.S. Cellular entered into an unsecured senior term loan credit agreement. In July 2015, U.S. Cellular borrowed the full amount of $225 million available under this agreement in two separate draws. This term loan credit agreement was amended and restated in June 2016, and further amended in May 2018. Principal reductions are due and payable in quarterly installments of $3 million beginning in March 2016 through December 2021, and the remaining unpaid balance will be due and payable in January 2022. This agreement was entered into for general corporate purposes, including working capital, spectrum purchases and capital expenditures.
The continued availability of the term loan agreement requires U.S. Cellular to comply with certain negative and affirmative covenants, maintain certain financial ratios and make representations regarding certain matters at the time of each borrowing, that are substantially the same as those in U.S. Cellular’s revolving credit agreement described above. U.S. Cellular believes that it was in compliance as of December 31, 2018, with all of the financial covenants and requirements set forth in the term loan agreement. See Financial Covenants below.
See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the term loan.
Receivables Securitization Agreement
In December 2017, U.S. Cellular, through its subsidiaries, entered into a $200 million credit agreement to permit securitized borrowings using its equipment installment receivables for general corporate purposes. U.S. Cellular entered into a performance guaranty whereby U.S. Cellular guarantees the performance of certain wholly-owned subsidiaries of U.S. Cellular under the agreement. Amounts under the receivables securitization agreement may be borrowed, repaid and reborrowed from time to time until maturity in December 2019, which may be extended from time to time as specified therein. As of December 31, 2018, there were no outstanding borrowings under the receivables securitization agreement, and the entire unused capacity of $200 million was available, subject to sufficient collateral to satisfy the asset borrowing base provisions of the agreement. As of December 31, 2018, the USCC Master Note Trust (Trust) held $63 million of assets available to be pledged as collateral for the receivables securitization agreement. The continued availability of the receivables securitization agreement requires U.S. Cellular to comply with certain negative and affirmative covenants, maintain certain financial ratios and provide representations on certain matters at the time of each borrowing. U.S. Cellular believes that it was in compliance as of December 31, 2018, with all of the financial covenants and requirements set forth in its receivables securitization agreement. See Financial Covenants below.
See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the receivables securitization agreement.
Financial Covenants
As noted above, the revolving credit agreement, senior term loan agreement and receivables securitization agreement require U.S. Cellular to comply with certain affirmative and negative covenants, which include certain financial covenants. In particular, under these agreements, U.S. Cellular is required to maintain the Consolidated Interest Coverage Ratio at a level not lower than 3.00 to 1.00 as of the end of any fiscal quarter. U.S. Cellular also is required to maintain the Consolidated Leverage Ratio at a level not to exceed 3.25 to 1.00 as of the end of any fiscal quarter through June 30, 2019. From July 1, 2019 and thereafter, the Consolidated Leverage Ratio is not to exceed 3.00 to 1.00 as of the end of any fiscal quarter. U.S. Cellular believes that it was in compliance as of December 31, 2018, with all such financial covenants. 

13


Other Long-Term Financing
U.S. Cellular has an effective shelf registration statement on Form S-3 to issue senior or subordinated debt securities. The proceeds from any such issuance may be used for general corporate purposes, including: the possible reduction of other short-term or long-term debt; spectrum purchases; capital expenditures; in connection with acquisition, construction and development programs; for working capital; to provide additional investments in subsidiaries; or the repurchase of shares. The U.S. Cellular shelf registration statement permits U.S. Cellular to issue at any time and from time to time senior or subordinated debt securities in one or more offerings, up to the amount registered, which is currently $500 million. The ability of U.S. Cellular to complete an offering pursuant to such shelf registration statement is subject to market conditions and other factors at the time.
U.S. Cellular believes that it was in compliance as of December 31, 2018, with all covenants and other requirements set forth in the U.S. Cellular long-term debt indentures. The U.S. Cellular long-term debt indentures do not include any financial covenants. U.S. Cellular has not failed to make nor does it expect to fail to make any scheduled payment of principal or interest under such indentures.
The total long-term debt principal payments due for the next five years are $205 million, which represent 12% of the total gross long-term debt obligation at December 31, 2018. Refer to Market Risk — Long-Term Debt for additional information regarding required principal payments and the weighted average interest rates related to U.S. Cellular’s Long-term debt.
U.S. Cellular, at its discretion, may from time to time seek to retire or purchase its outstanding debt through cash purchases and/or exchanges for other securities, in open market purchases, privately negotiated transactions, tender offers, exchange offers or otherwise. Such repurchases or exchanges, if any, will depend on prevailing market conditions, liquidity requirements, contractual restrictions and other factors. The amounts involved may be material.
See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on long-term financing.
Credit Ratings
In certain circumstances, U.S. Cellular’s interest cost on its revolving credit and term loan agreements may be subject to increase if its current credit ratings from nationally recognized credit rating agencies are lowered, and may be subject to decrease if the ratings are raised. U.S. Cellular’s agreements do not cease to be available nor do the maturity dates accelerate solely as a result of a downgrade in credit rating. However, a downgrade in U.S. Cellular’s credit rating could adversely affect its ability to renew the agreements or obtain access to other credit agreements in the future.
U.S. Cellular is rated at sub-investment grade. U.S. Cellular’s credit ratings as of December 31, 2018, and the dates such ratings were re-affirmed were as follows:
Rating Agency
Rating
Outlook
Moody's (re-affirmed September 2018)
Ba1
stable outlook
Standard & Poor's (re-affirmed October 2018)
BB
stable outlook
Fitch Ratings (re-affirmed April 2018)
BB+
stable outlook
Capital Requirements
The discussion below is intended to highlight some of the significant cash outlays expected during 2019 and beyond and to highlight the spending incurred in prior years for these items. This discussion does not include cash required to fund normal operations, and is not a comprehensive list of capital requirements. Significant cash requirements that are not routine or in the normal course of business could arise from time to time.
Capital Expenditures
U.S. Cellular makes substantial investments to acquire, construct and upgrade wireless telecommunications networks and facilities to remain competitive and as a basis for creating long-term value for shareholders. In recent years, rapid changes in technology and new opportunities (such as 4G LTE and VoLTE technology) have required substantial investments in potentially revenue‑enhancing and cost-saving upgrades of U.S. Cellular’s networks to remain competitive; this is expected to continue in 2019 and future years with the deployment of 5G technology and the continued deployment of VoLTE.

14


Capital expenditures (i.e., additions to property, plant and equipment and system development expenditures), which include the effects of accruals and capitalized interest, in 2018, 2017 and 2016 were as follows:
 
Capital Expenditures
(Dollars in millions)
chart-f0bdcf46f5ca5231931.jpg
 


U.S. Cellular’s capital expenditures in 2018 were $515 million compared to $469 million in 2017 and $446 million in 2016. In 2018, these capital expenditures were used for the following purposes:
Enhance and maintain U.S. Cellular's network coverage, including continuing to deploy VoLTE technology in certain markets and providing additional capacity to accommodate increased data usage by current customers; and
Invest in information technology to support existing and new services and products.

U.S. Cellular’s capital expenditures for 2019 are expected to be between $625 million and $725 million. In addition to the purposes listed above, these expenditures are expected to be used to enhance network speed and begin deploying 5G technology.

 
U.S. Cellular plans to finance its capital expenditures program for 2019 using primarily Cash flows from operating activities, existing cash balances and, if required, its receivables securitization and/or revolving credit agreements.
Acquisitions, Divestitures and Exchanges
U.S. Cellular may be engaged from time to time in negotiations (subject to all applicable regulations) relating to the acquisition, divestiture or exchange of companies, properties or wireless spectrum. In general, U.S. Cellular may not disclose such transactions until there is a definitive agreement. U.S. Cellular assesses its existing wireless interests on an ongoing basis with a goal of improving the competitiveness of its operations and maximizing its long-term return on capital. As part of this strategy, U.S. Cellular actively seeks attractive opportunities to acquire wireless spectrum, including pursuant to FCC auctions. 
In July 2016, the FCC announced U.S. Cellular as a qualified bidder in the FCC’s forward auction of 600 MHz spectrum licenses, referred to as Auction 1002. In April 2017, the FCC announced by way of public notice that U.S. Cellular was the winning bidder for 188 licenses for an aggregate purchase price of $329 million. Prior to commencement of the forward auction, U.S. Cellular made an upfront payment to the FCC of $143 million in June 2016. U.S. Cellular paid the remaining $186 million to the FCC and was granted the licenses during the second quarter of 2017.
Total cash payments for acquisitions of licenses were $8 million, $189 million and $196 million in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The 2016 amount includes the $143 million deposit that was made to the FCC.
U.S. Cellular also may seek to divest outright or include in exchanges for other wireless interests those interests that are not strategic to its long-term success. Total Cash received from divestitures and exchanges was $24 million, $21 million and $21 million in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. 
Variable Interest Entities
U.S. Cellular consolidates certain “variable interest entities” as defined under GAAP. See Note 13Variable Interest Entities in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to these variable interest entities. U.S. Cellular may elect to make additional capital contributions and/or advances to these variable interest entities in future periods in order to fund their operations.
Common Share Repurchase Program
U.S. Cellular has repurchased and expects to continue to repurchase its Common Shares, subject to its repurchase program. Share repurchases made under this program were as follows:
Year Ended December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
Number of shares

 

 
154,449

Average cost per share
$

 
$

 
$
34.55

Dollar amount (in millions)
$

 
$

 
$
5


15


Depending on its future financial performance, construction, development and acquisition programs, and available sources of financing, U.S. Cellular may not have sufficient liquidity or capital resources to make significant share repurchases. Therefore, there is no assurance that U.S. Cellular will make any significant share repurchases in the future.
For additional information related to the current repurchase authorization, see Note 15Common Shareholders’ Equity in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
U.S. Cellular had no transactions, agreements or other contractual arrangements with unconsolidated entities involving “off-balance sheet arrangements,” as defined by SEC rules, that had or are reasonably likely to have a material current or future effect on its financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, capital expenditures or capital resources.

16


Contractual and Other Obligations
At December 31, 2018, the resources required for contractual obligations were as follows:
 
 
 
Payments Due by Period
 
Total
 
Less Than 1 Year
 
1 - 3 Years
 
3 - 5 Years
 
More Than 5 Years
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Long-term debt obligations1
$
1,666

 
$
18

 
$
29

 
$
158

 
$
1,461

Interest payments on long-term debt obligations
3,469

 
111

 
221

 
204

 
2,933

Operating leases2
1,403

 
154

 
271

 
209

 
769

Capital leases
14

 
1

 
1

 
1

 
11

Purchase obligations3
1,545

 
1,296

 
180

 
45

 
24

 
$
8,097

 
$
1,580

 
$
702

 
$
617

 
$
5,198

1
Includes current and long-term portions of debt obligations. The total long-term debt obligation differs from Total long-term debt, net due to capital leases, debt issuance costs, unamortized discounts related to the 6.7% Senior Notes, and unamortized discounts related to the Installment payment agreement. See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
2
Includes future lease costs related to office space, retail sites, cell sites and equipment. See Note 12Commitments and Contingencies in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
3
Includes obligations payable under non-cancellable contracts, commitments for device purchases, network facilities and transport services, agreements for software licensing, long-term marketing programs, as well as certain agreements to purchase goods or services. Where applicable, U.S. Cellular calculates its obligation based on termination fees that can be paid to exit the contract. 

The table above excludes potential liabilities related to “unrecognized tax benefits” as defined by GAAP because U.S. Cellular is unable to predict the outcome or period of settlement of such liabilities. Such unrecognized tax benefits were $48 million at December 31, 2018. See Note 5Income Taxes in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on unrecognized tax benefits.
See Note 12Commitments and Contingencies in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

17


Consolidated Cash Flow Analysis
U.S. Cellular operates a capital‑ and marketing‑intensive business. U.S. Cellular makes substantial investments to acquire wireless licenses and properties and to construct and upgrade wireless telecommunications networks and facilities as a basis for creating long-term value for shareholders. In recent years, rapid changes in technology and new opportunities have required substantial investments in potentially revenue‑enhancing and cost-saving upgrades to U.S. Cellular’s networks. U.S. Cellular utilizes cash on hand, cash from operating activities, cash proceeds from divestitures and dispositions of investments, and short-term and long-term debt financing to fund its acquisitions (including spectrum licenses), construction costs, operating expenses and share repurchases. Cash flows may fluctuate from quarter to quarter and year to year due to seasonality, the timing of acquisitions and divestitures, capital expenditures and other factors. The following discussion summarizes U.S. Cellular’s cash flow activities in 2018, 2017 and 2016.
2018 Commentary
U.S. Cellular’s Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash increased $231 million in 2018. Net cash provided by operating activities was $709 million in 2018 due to net income of $164 million plus non-cash items of $605 million and distributions received from unconsolidated entities of $152 million, including $68 million in distributions from the LA Partnership. This was partially offset by changes in working capital items which decreased net cash by $212 million. The working capital changes were influenced primarily by a $149 million increase in equipment installment plan receivables, which are expected to continue to increase and further require the use of working capital in the near term. The adoption of ASU 2014-09 on January 1, 2018, caused fluctuations in working capital items in the Consolidated Balance Sheet; however, the adoption of ASU 2014-09 had no impact on the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.
Cash flows used for investing activities were $464 million. Cash paid in 2018 for additions to property, plant and equipment totaled $512 million. This was partially offset by cash received from the redemption of short-term Treasury bills of $50 million
Cash flows used for financing activities were $14 million, reflecting ordinary activity such as the scheduled repayments of debt.
2017 Commentary
U.S. Cellular’s Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash decreased $234 million in 2017. Net cash provided by operating activities was $469 million in 2017 due to net income of $15 million plus non-cash items of $598 million (including a $370 million loss on impairment of goodwill and a $365 million decrease in the deferred income tax liability) and distributions received from unconsolidated entities of $136 million, including $62 million in distributions from the LA Partnership. This was partially offset by changes in working capital items which decreased net cash by $280 million. The working capital changes were due primarily to a $261 million increase in equipment installment plan receivables.
Cash flows used for investing activities were $683 million. Cash paid in 2017 for additions to property, plant and equipment totaled $465 million. Cash paid for licenses was $189 million which included the remaining $186 million due to the FCC for licenses U.S. Cellular won in Auction 1002. Cash paid for investments was $50 million which included the purchase of short-term Treasury bills. This was partially offset by Cash received from divestitures and exchanges of $21 million.
Cash flows used for financing activities were $20 million, primarily for scheduled repayments of debt.
2016 Commentary
U.S. Cellular’s Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash decreased $129 million in 2016. Net cash provided by operating activities was $501 million in 2016 due to net income of $49 million plus non-cash items of $609 million and distributions received from unconsolidated entities of $93 million, including $29 million in distributions from the LA Partnership. This was partially offset by changes in working capital items which decreased cash by $250 million. The working capital changes were due primarily to a $246 million increase in equipment installment plan receivables. 
The net cash provided by operating activities was offset by cash flows used for investing activities of $618 million. Cash paid in 2016 for additions to property, plant and equipment totaled $443 million. In June 2016, U.S. Cellular made a deposit of $143 million to the FCC for its participation in Auction 1002. Cash paid for acquisitions and licenses in 2016 was $53 million partially offset by Cash received from divestitures and exchanges of $21 million.
Cash flows used for financing activities were $12 million in 2016, reflecting ordinary activity such as scheduled repayments of debt.

18


Consolidated Balance Sheet Analysis
The following discussion addresses certain captions in the consolidated balance sheet and changes therein. This discussion is intended to highlight the significant changes and is not intended to fully reconcile the changes. Changes in financial condition during 2018 were as follows:
Cash and cash equivalents
See the Consolidated Cash Flow Analysis above for a discussion of cash and cash equivalents.
Short-term investments
Short-term investments decreased $33 million due to the maturity of U.S. Treasury Bills with original maturities of six months partially offset by the purchase of additional U.S. Treasury Bills.
Accounts receivable — customers and agents
Accounts receivable — customers and agents increased $133 million due primarily to an increase in equipment installment plan receivables as well as ceasing to record deferred imputed interest as a result of the adoption of ASU 2014-09. See Note 2Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Assets held for sale
Assets held for sale increased $44 million due primarily to the transfer of Licenses to Assets held for sale as a result of sale and exchange agreements that U.S. Cellular entered into in 2018. These agreements closed in the first quarter of 2019.
Other assets and deferred charges
Other assets and deferred charges increased $189 million due primarily to the creation of contract cost assets as a result of the adoption of ASU 2014-09. See Note 2Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Customer deposits and deferred revenues
Customer deposits and deferred revenues decreased $28 million due primarily to the reclassification of certain deferred revenues to Other current assets to reflect the net contract position for each customer contract on the Consolidated Balance Sheet as required by ASU 2014-09, which was adopted on January 1, 2018. See Note — Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Accrued taxes
Accrued taxes decreased $26 million due primarily to the benefit of federal bonus depreciation on qualified assets.
Other deferred liabilities and credits
Other deferred liabilities and credits increased $52 million due primarily to an increase in asset retirement obligations as well as the creation of contract liabilities as a result of the adoption of ASU 2014-09. See Note 2Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Treasury shares
Treasury shares decreased $55 million due primarily to restricted stock units vesting and the exercise of stock options.


19


Application of Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
U.S. Cellular prepares its consolidated financial statements in accordance with GAAP. U.S. Cellular’s significant accounting policies are discussed in detail in Note 1Summary of Significant Accounting Policies and Recent Accounting Pronouncements and Note 2Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
Management believes the application of the following critical accounting policies and the estimates required by such application reflect its most significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of U.S. Cellular’s consolidated financial statements. Management has discussed the development and selection of each of the following accounting policies and related estimates and disclosures with the Audit Committee of U.S. Cellular’s Board of Directors.
Wireless Licenses
Licenses represent a significant component of U.S. Cellular’s consolidated assets. Licenses are considered to be indefinite-lived assets and, therefore, are not amortized but rather are tested annually for impairment. Significant negative events, such as changes in any of the assumptions described below as well as decreases in forecasted cash flows, could result in an impairment in future periods. Licenses are tested for impairment at the level of reporting referred to as a unit of accounting.
U.S. Cellular performs its annual impairment assessment of Licenses as of November 1 of each year, or more frequently if there are events or circumstances that cause U.S. Cellular to believe the carrying value of Licenses exceeds their fair value on a more likely than not basis. For purposes of its impairment testing of Licenses, U.S. Cellular separated its FCC licenses into eight units of accounting. The eight units of accounting consisted of one unit of accounting for developed operating market licenses (built licenses) and seven geographic non-operating market licenses (unbuilt licenses). U.S. Cellular performed a qualitative impairment assessment in 2018, and a quantitative impairment assessment in 2017, to determine whether an impairment existed.
In 2018, U.S. Cellular considered several qualitative factors, including analysts’ estimates of license values which contemplated recent spectrum auction results, recent U.S. Cellular and other market participant transactions and other industry and market factors. Based on this assessment, U.S. Cellular concluded that it was more likely than not that the fair value of the licenses in each unit of accounting exceeded their respective carrying values. Therefore, no impairment of licenses existed and no Step 1 quantitative impairment evaluation was completed.
In 2017, a market approach was used to value the spectrum license portfolio. Within each unit of accounting, the licenses were segregated by type and by similar geographical area. The market approach develops an indication of fair value by calculating estimated market values using observable license purchase and auction transactions as a basis for such values for each pool of licenses. The sum of the fair values of the discrete pools represents the estimated fair value of U.S. Cellular’s licenses. Based on the assessment, the fair values of the license units of accounting exceeded their respective carrying values by amounts ranging from 16% to greater than 100%. Therefore, no impairment of licenses existed.
See Note 7Intangible Assets in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for information related to Licenses activity in 2018 and 2017.
Income Taxes
U.S. Cellular is included in a consolidated federal income tax return with other members of the TDS consolidated group. TDS and U.S. Cellular are parties to a Tax Allocation Agreement which provides that U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries be included with the TDS affiliated group in a consolidated federal income tax return and in state income or franchise tax returns in certain situations. For financial statement purposes, U.S. Cellular and its subsidiaries calculate their income, income tax and credits as if they comprised a separate affiliated group. Under the Tax Allocation Agreement between TDS and U.S. Cellular, U.S. Cellular remits its applicable income tax payments to TDS.
The amounts of income tax assets and liabilities, the related income tax provision and the amount of unrecognized tax benefits are critical accounting estimates because such amounts are significant to U.S. Cellular’s financial condition and results of operations.
The preparation of the consolidated financial statements requires U.S. Cellular to calculate a provision for income taxes. This process involves estimating the actual current income tax liability together with assessing temporary differences resulting from the different treatment of items for tax purposes. These temporary differences result in deferred income tax assets and liabilities, which are included in U.S. Cellular’s Consolidated Balance Sheet. U.S. Cellular must then assess the likelihood that deferred income tax assets will be realized based on future taxable income and, to the extent management believes that realization is not likely, establish a valuation allowance. Management’s judgment is required in determining the provision for income taxes, deferred income tax assets and liabilities and any valuation allowance that is established for deferred income tax assets.
U.S. Cellular recognizes the tax benefit from an uncertain tax position only if it is more likely than not that the tax position will be sustained on examination by the taxing authorities based on the technical merits of the position.  The tax benefits recognized in the financial statements from such a position are measured based on management’s judgment as to the possible outcome that has a greater than 50% cumulative likelihood of being realized upon ultimate resolution. 
See Note 5Income Taxes in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for details regarding U.S. Cellular’s income tax provision, deferred income taxes and liabilities, valuation allowances and unrecognized tax benefits, including information regarding estimates that impact income taxes. 

20


Equipment Installment Plans
U.S. Cellular sells devices and certain accessories to customers under installment contracts over a specified time period and, under certain of these plans, offers the customer a trade-in right. Customers on an installment contract who elect to trade-in the device will receive a credit in the amount of the outstanding balance of the installment contract, provided the customer trades-in an eligible used device in good working condition and purchases a new device from U.S. Cellular. Equipment revenue under these contracts is recognized at the time the device is delivered to the customer for the amount allocated to the equipment under ASU 2014-09. See Note 4Equipment Installment Plans in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Trade-In Right
U.S. Cellular values the trade-in right as a guarantee liability. This liability is initially measured at fair value and is determined based on assumptions including the probability and timing of the customer upgrading to a new device and the fair value of the device being traded-in at the time of trade-in. U.S. Cellular reevaluates its estimate of the guarantee liability quarterly. A significant change in any of the aforementioned assumptions used to compute the guarantee liability would impact the amount of revenue recognized under these plans and the timing thereof. In 2018 and 2017, U.S. Cellular assumed the earliest contractual time of trade-in, or the minimum amount of payments as specified in the device installment contract, for all customers on installment contracts with trade-in rights.
When a customer exercises the trade-in option, both the outstanding receivable and guarantee liability balances related to the respective devices are reduced to zero, and the value of the used device that is received in the transaction is recognized as inventory. If the customer does not exercise the trade-in option at the time of eligibility, U.S. Cellular begins amortizing the liability and records this amortization as additional equipment revenue. 
Allowance for doubtful accounts
U.S. Cellular maintains an allowance for doubtful accounts for estimated losses that result from the failure of its customers to make payments due under the equipment installment plans and accessory installment plans. The allowance is estimated based on historical experience, account aging and other factors that could affect collectability. When it is probable that an account balance will not be collected, the account balance is charged against the allowance for doubtful accounts. To the extent that actual loss experience differs significantly from historical trends, the required allowance amounts could differ from the original estimates.
Other Items
Inflation
Management believes that inflation affects U.S. Cellular’s business to no greater or lesser extent than the general economy.
Seasonality
U.S. Cellular’s profitability historically has been lower in the fourth quarter as a result of significant marketing and promotional activity during the holiday season.
Recently Issued Accounting Pronouncements
See Note 1Summary of Significant Accounting Policies and Recent Accounting Pronouncements in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for information on recently issued accounting pronouncements.
Certain Relationships and Related Transactions
See Note 18Certain Relationships and Related Transactions in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.

21


Regulatory Matters
FCC Mobility Fund Phase II Order
In October 2011, the FCC adopted its USF/Intercarrier Compensation Transformation Order (USF Order). Pursuant to this order, U.S. Cellular’s then current Federal USF support was to be phased down at the rate of 20% per year beginning July 1, 2012. The USF Order contemplated the establishment of a new mobile USF program (i.e., the Phase II Connect America Mobility Fund or "MF2") and provided for a pause in the phase down if that program was not timely implemented by July 2014. MF2 was not operational as of July 2014 and, therefore, as provided by the USF Order, the phase down was suspended at 60% of the baseline amount until such time as the FCC had taken steps to establish the MF2. In February 2017, the FCC adopted the MF2 Order addressing the framework for MF2 and the resumption of the phase down. The MF2 Order establishes a support fund of $453 million annually for ten years to be distributed through a market-based, multi-round reverse auction. For areas that receive support under MF2, legacy support to MF2 Auction winners will terminate and be replaced with MF2 support effective the first day of the month following release of the public notice closing the auction. Legacy support in areas where the legacy support recipient is not an MF2 winner will be subject to phase down over two years unless there is no winner in a particular census block, in which case it will be continued for one legacy support recipient only. The MF2 Order further states that the phase down of legacy support for areas that were not eligible for support under MF2 will commence on the first day of the month following the completion of the auction and will conclude two years later. 
In August 2017, the FCC adopted the MF2 Challenge Process Order, which laid out procedures for establishing areas that would be eligible for support under the MF2 program. This included a collection process to be followed by a challenge window, a challenge response window, and finally adjudication of any coverage disputes. In September 2017, the FCC issued a public notice initiating the collection of 4G LTE coverage data. Responses submitting the collected data were due on January 4, 2018. 
On February 27, 2018, the FCC issued public notices providing detailed challenge procedures and a schedule for the challenge process. Pursuant to these notices, the challenge window began on March 29, 2018, and closed on November 26, 2018. Under the MF2 Challenge Process Order, no earlier than thirty days after the FCC processes the challenges, the FCC would open a thirty-day challenge response window. Following the challenge response window, the FCC would then adjudicate any disputes. This entire process must be completed before an auction can be commenced. 
On December 7, 2018, the FCC announced that it is investigating whether one or more carriers had violated the MF2 mapping rules and submitted incorrect maps. Pending the outcome of this investigation, the FCC suspended the challenge process.
U.S. Cellular cannot predict at this time when the MF2 auction will occur, when the phase down period for its existing legacy support from the Federal USF will commence, or whether the MF2 auction will provide opportunities to U.S. Cellular to offset any loss in existing support.
FCC Rulemaking – Restoring Internet Freedom
In December 2017, the FCC approved rules reversing or revising decisions made in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet and Title II Order (Restoring Internet Freedom). The 2017 action reversed the FCC’s 2015 decision to reclassify Broadband Internet Access Services as telecommunications services subject to regulation under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The 2017 action also reversed the FCC’s 2015 restrictions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, and modified transparency rules relating to such practices. Parties are pursuing legal proceedings challenging the 2017 actions. U.S. Cellular cannot predict the outcome of these proceedings or the impact on its business. 
A number of states, including certain states in which U.S. Cellular operates, have adopted or considered laws intended to reinstate aspects of the foregoing net neutrality regulations that were reversed or revised by the FCC in 2017. To the extent such laws are enacted, it is expected that legal proceedings will be pursued challenging such laws. U.S. Cellular cannot predict the outcome of these proceedings or the impact on its business.
Millimeter Wave Spectrum Auctions
At its open meeting on August 2, 2018, the FCC adopted a public notice establishing procedures for two auctions of spectrum licenses in the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands. The 28 GHz auction (Auction 101) commenced on November 14, 2018 and closed on January 24, 2019. Auction 101 offered two 425 MHz licenses in the 28 GHz band over portions of the United States that do not have incumbent licensees. The 24 GHz auction (Auction 102) will offer up to seven 100 MHz licenses in the 24 GHz band in Partial Economic Areas covering most of the United States. Upfront payments for Auction 102 were due by February 19, 2019, and bidding in Auction 102 is scheduled to begin on March 14, 2019. U.S. Cellular filed applications to participate in both auctions on September 18, 2018, and was announced as a qualified bidder for Auction 101 on October 31, 2018. The FCC has not announced qualified bidders for Auction 102.
Also, at the open meeting on August 2, 2018, the FCC adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in preparation for an additional Millimeter Wave auction offering licenses in the 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands. FCC statements indicate plans to hold this auction in the second half of 2019.

22


PRIVATE SECURITIES LITIGATION REFORM ACT OF 1995
SAFE HARBOR CAUTIONARY STATEMENT
This Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and other sections of this Annual Report contain statements that are not based on historical facts and represent forward-looking statements, as this term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, that address activities, events or developments that U.S. Cellular intends, expects, projects, believes, estimates, plans or anticipates will or may occur in the future are forward-looking statements. The words “believes,” “anticipates,” “estimates,” “expects,” “plans,” “intends,” “projects” and similar expressions are intended to identify these forward‑looking statements, but are not the exclusive means of identifying them. Such forward‑looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, events or developments to be significantly different from any future results, events or developments expressed or implied by such forward‑looking statements. Such risks, uncertainties and other factors include, but are not limited to, those set forth below. See “Risk Factors” in U.S. Cellular’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018, for a further discussion of these risks. Each of the following risks could have a material adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. However, such factors are not necessarily all of the important factors that could cause actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the forward-looking statements contained in this document. Other unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on future results, performance or achievements.  U.S. Cellular undertakes no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Readers should evaluate any statements in light of these important factors.
Intense competition in the markets in which U.S. Cellular operates could adversely affect U.S. Cellular’s revenues or increase its costs to compete.
A failure by U.S. Cellular to successfully execute its business strategy (including planned acquisitions, spectrum acquisitions, divestitures and exchanges) or allocate resources or capital effectively could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. 
Uncertainty in U.S. Cellular’s future cash flow and liquidity or the inability to access capital, deterioration in the capital markets, other changes in U.S. Cellular’s performance or market conditions, changes in U.S. Cellular’s credit ratings or other factors could limit or restrict the availability of financing on terms and prices acceptable to U.S. Cellular, which could require U.S. Cellular to reduce its construction, development or acquisition programs, reduce the amount of spectrum licenses acquired, and/or reduce or cease share repurchases.
U.S. Cellular has a significant amount of indebtedness which could adversely affect its financial performance and in turn adversely affect its ability to make payments on its indebtedness, comply with terms of debt covenants and incur additional debt.
Changes in roaming practices or other factors could cause U.S. Cellular's roaming revenues to decline from current levels, roaming expenses to increase from current levels and/or impact U.S. Cellular's ability to service its customers in geographic areas where U.S. Cellular does not have its own network, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular's business, financial condition or results of operations.
A failure by U.S. Cellular to obtain access to adequate radio spectrum to meet current or anticipated future needs and/or to accurately predict future needs for radio spectrum could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
To the extent conducted by the FCC, U.S. Cellular may participate in FCC auctions for additional spectrum or for funding in certain Universal Service programs in the future directly or indirectly and, during certain periods, will be subject to the FCC’s anti-collusion rules, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular.
Failure by U.S. Cellular to timely or fully comply with any existing applicable legislative and/or regulatory requirements or changes thereto could adversely affect U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
An inability to attract people of outstanding talent throughout all levels of the organization, to develop their potential through education and assignments, and to retain them by keeping them engaged, challenged and properly rewarded could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular's business, financial condition or results of operations.
U.S. Cellular’s assets and revenue are concentrated in the U.S. wireless telecommunications industry. Consequently, its operating results may fluctuate based on factors related primarily to conditions in this industry.
U.S. Cellular’s smaller scale relative to larger competitors that may have greater financial and other resources than U.S. Cellular could cause U.S. Cellular to be unable to compete successfully, which could adversely affect its business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in various business factors, including changes in demand, customer preferences and perceptions, price competition, churn from customer switching activity and other factors, could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. 

23


Advances or changes in technology could render certain technologies used by U.S. Cellular obsolete, could put U.S. Cellular at a competitive disadvantage, could reduce U.S. Cellular’s revenues or could increase its costs of doing business.
Complexities associated with deploying new technologies present substantial risk and U.S. Cellular investments in unproven technologies may not produce the benefits that U.S. Cellular expects.
U.S. Cellular receives regulatory support and is subject to numerous surcharges and fees from federal, state and local governments, and the applicability and the amount of the support and fees are subject to great uncertainty, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. 
Performance under device purchase agreements could have a material adverse impact on U.S. Cellular's business, financial condition or results of operations. 
Changes in U.S. Cellular’s enterprise value, changes in the market supply or demand for wireless licenses, adverse developments in the business or the industry in which U.S. Cellular is involved and/or other factors could require U.S. Cellular to recognize impairments in the carrying value of its licenses and/or physical assets.
Costs, integration problems or other factors associated with acquisitions, divestitures or exchanges of properties or licenses and/or expansion of U.S. Cellular’s business could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
A failure by U.S. Cellular to complete significant network construction and systems implementation activities as part of its plans to improve the quality, coverage, capabilities and capacity of its network, support and other systems and infrastructure could have an adverse effect on its operations. 
Difficulties involving third parties with which U.S. Cellular does business, including changes in U.S. Cellular's relationships with or financial or operational difficulties of key suppliers or independent agents and third party national retailers who market U.S. Cellular’s services, could adversely affect U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
U.S. Cellular has significant investments in entities that it does not control. Losses in the value of such investments could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s financial condition or results of operations.
A failure by U.S. Cellular to maintain flexible and capable telecommunication networks or information technology, or a material disruption thereof, could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations. 
U.S. Cellular has experienced and, in the future, expects to experience cyber-attacks or other breaches of network or information technology security of varying degrees on a regular basis, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular's business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in facts or circumstances, including new or additional information, could require U.S. Cellular to record adjustments to amounts reflected in the financial statements, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
Disruption in credit or other financial markets, a deterioration of U.S. or global economic conditions or other events could, among other things, impede U.S. Cellular’s access to or increase the cost of financing its operating and investment activities and/or result in reduced revenues and lower operating income and cash flows, which would have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
Settlements, judgments, restraints on its current or future manner of doing business and/or legal costs resulting from pending and future litigation could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
The possible development of adverse precedent in litigation or conclusions in professional studies to the effect that radio frequency emissions from wireless devices and/or cell sites cause harmful health consequences, including cancer or tumors, or may interfere with various electronic medical devices such as pacemakers, could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
Claims of infringement of intellectual property and proprietary rights of others, primarily involving patent infringement claims, could prevent U.S. Cellular from using necessary technology to provide products or services or subject U.S. Cellular to expensive intellectual property litigation or monetary penalties, which could have an adverse effect on U.S. Cellular’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
There are potential conflicts of interests between TDS and U.S. Cellular. 
Certain matters, such as control by TDS and provisions in the U.S. Cellular Restated Certificate of Incorporation, may serve to discourage or make more difficult a change in control of U.S. Cellular or have other consequences.
The market price of U.S. Cellular’s Common Shares is subject to fluctuations due to a variety of factors.
Any of the foregoing events or other events could cause revenues, earnings, capital expenditures and/or any other financial or statistical information to vary from U.S. Cellular’s forward-looking estimates by a material amount.

24


MARKET RISK
Long-Term Debt
As of December 31, 2018, the majority of U.S. Cellular’s long-term debt was in the form of fixed-rate notes with remaining maturities ranging up to 46 years. Fluctuations in market interest rates can lead to significant fluctuations in the fair value of these fixed-rate notes.
The following chart presents the scheduled principal payments on long-term debt by maturity dates at December 31, 2018:
usmmarketriskv2.jpg
The following table presents the scheduled principal payments on long-term debt, capital lease obligations and other installment arrangements, and the related weighted average interest rates by maturity dates at December 31, 2018:
 
Principal Payments Due by Period
 
Long-Term Debt Obligations1
 
Weighted-Avg. Interest Rates on Long-Term Debt Obligations2
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
2019
$
19

 
3.3
%
2020
19

 
3.3
%
2021
11

 
5.1
%
2022
158

 
5.0
%
2023

 
6.8
%
Thereafter
1,464

 
7.0
%
Total
$
1,671

 
6.7
%
1 
The total long-term debt obligation differs from Long-term debt in the Consolidated Balance Sheet due to unamortized debt issuance costs on all non-revolving debt instruments, unamortized discounts related to the 6.7% Senior Notes, and unamortized discounts related to the Installment payment agreement. See Note 11Debt in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
2 
Represents the weighted average interest rates at December 31, 2018, for debt maturing in the respective periods.

25


Fair Value of Long-Term Debt
At December 31, 2018 and 2017, the estimated fair value of long-term debt obligations, excluding capital lease obligations, other installment arrangements, the current portion of such long-term debt and debt financing costs, was $1,561 million and $1,652 million, respectively. See Note 3Fair Value Measurements in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Other Market Risk Sensitive Instruments
The substantial majority of U.S. Cellular’s other market risk sensitive instruments (as defined in Item 305 of SEC Regulation S-K) are short-term, including Cash and cash equivalents. Accordingly, U.S. Cellular believes that a significant change in interest rates would not have a material effect on such other market risk sensitive instruments.

26


Supplemental Information Relating to Non-GAAP Financial Measures
U.S. Cellular sometimes uses information derived from consolidated financial information but not presented in its financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP to evaluate the performance of its business. Certain of these measures are considered “non-GAAP financial measures” under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rules. Specifically, U.S. Cellular has referred to the following measures in this Form 10-K Report:
EBITDA
Adjusted EBITDA
Adjusted OIBDA
Free cash flow
Postpaid ABPU
Postpaid ABPA

Following are explanations of each of these measures:
EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA
EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA are defined as net income adjusted for the items set forth in the reconciliation below. EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA are not measures of financial performance under GAAP and should not be considered as alternatives to Net income or Cash flows from operating activities, as indicators of cash flows or as measures of liquidity. U.S. Cellular does not intend to imply that any such items set forth in the reconciliation below are non-recurring, infrequent or unusual; such items may occur in the future.  
Management uses Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA as measurements of profitability and, therefore, reconciliations to Net income and Operating income are deemed appropriate. Management believes Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA are useful measures of U.S. Cellular’s operating results before significant recurring non-cash charges, gains and losses, and other items as presented below as they provide additional relevant and useful information to investors and other users of U.S. Cellular’s financial data in evaluating the effectiveness of its operations and underlying business trends in a manner that is consistent with management’s evaluation of business performance. Adjusted EBITDA shows adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and accretion, and gains and losses, while Adjusted OIBDA reduces this measure further to exclude Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities and Interest and dividend income in order to more effectively show the performance of operating activities excluding investment activities. The following table reconciles EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted OIBDA to the corresponding GAAP measures, Net income and Operating income.


27


 
2018¹
 
2017
 
2016
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
Net income (GAAP)
$
164

 
$
15

 
$
49

Add back or deduct:
 

 
 

 
 

Income tax expense (benefit)
51

 
(287
)
 
33

Interest expense
116

 
113

 
113

Depreciation, amortization and accretion
640

 
615

 
618

EBITDA (Non-GAAP)
971

 
456

 
813

Add back or deduct:
 

 
 

 
 

Loss on impairment of goodwill

 
370

 

(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
10

 
17

 
22

(Gain) loss on sale of business and other exit costs, net

 
(1
)
 

(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
(18
)
 
(22
)
 
(19
)
Adjusted EBITDA (Non-GAAP)
963


820


816

Deduct:
 

 
 

 
 

Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
159

 
137

 
140

Interest and dividend income
15

 
8

 
6

Other, net
(1
)
 

 
1

Adjusted OIBDA (Non-GAAP)
790

 
675

 
669

Deduct:
 

 
 

 
 

Depreciation, amortization and accretion
640

 
615

 
618

Loss on impairment of goodwill

 
370

 

(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
10

 
17

 
22

(Gain) loss on sale of business and other exit costs, net

 
(1
)
 

(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
(18
)
 
(22
)
 
(19
)
Operating income (loss) (GAAP)
$
158

 
$
(304
)
 
$
48

1 
As of January 1, 2018, U.S. Cellular adopted ASU 2014-09 using a modified retrospective approach.  Under this method, the new accounting standard is applied only to the most recent period presented.  See Note 2 — Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Free Cash Flow
The following table presents Free cash flow. Free cash flow is a non-GAAP financial measure which U.S. Cellular believes may be useful to investors and other users of its financial information in evaluating liquidity, specifically, the amount of net cash generated by business operations after deducting Cash paid for additions to property, plant and equipment.
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
Cash flows from operating activities (GAAP)
$
709

 
$
469

 
$
501

Less: Cash paid for additions to property, plant and equipment
512

 
465

 
443

Free cash flow (Non-GAAP)
$
197


$
4


$
58


28


Postpaid ABPU and Postpaid ABPA
U.S. Cellular presents Postpaid ABPU and Postpaid ABPA to reflect the revenue shift from Service revenues to Equipment sales resulting from the increased adoption of equipment installment plans. Postpaid ABPU and Postpaid ABPA, as previously defined, are non-GAAP financial measures which U.S. Cellular believes are useful to investors and other users of its financial information in showing trends in both service and equipment sales revenues received from customers.
 
2018¹
 
2017
 
2016
(Dollars and connection counts in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
Calculation of Postpaid ARPU
 
 
 
 
 
Postpaid service revenues
$
2,417

 
$
2,389

 
$
2,517

Average number of postpaid connections
4.48

 
4.49

 
4.47

Number of months in period
12

 
12

 
12

Postpaid ARPU (GAAP metric)
$
44.98

 
$
44.38

 
$
46.96

 


 


 


Calculation of Postpaid ABPU

 

 

Postpaid service revenues
$
2,417

 
$
2,389

 
$
2,517

Equipment installment plan billings
735

 
604

 
491

Total billings to postpaid connections
$
3,152

 
$
2,993

 
$
3,008

Average number of postpaid connections
4.48

 
4.49

 
4.47

Number of months in period
12

 
12

 
12

Postpaid ABPU (Non-GAAP metric)
$
58.67

 
$
55.60

 
$
56.12

 


 


 


Calculation of Postpaid ARPA

 

 

Postpaid service revenues
$
2,417

 
$
2,389

 
$
2,517

Average number of postpaid accounts
1.69

 
1.67

 
1.69

Number of months in period
12

 
12

 
12

Postpaid ARPA (GAAP metric)
$
118.93

 
$
118.96

 
$
124.09

 


 


 


Calculation of Postpaid ABPA

 

 

Postpaid service revenues
$
2,417

 
$
2,389

 
$
2,517

Equipment installment plan billings
735

 
604

 
491

Total billings to postpaid accounts
$
3,152

 
$
2,993

 
$
3,008

Average number of postpaid accounts
1.69

 
1.67

 
1.69

Number of months in period
12

 
12

 
12

Postpaid ABPA (Non-GAAP metric)
$
155.11

 
$
149.02

 
$
148.29

Numbers may not foot due to rounding
1 
As of January 1, 2018, U.S. Cellular adopted ASU 2014-09 using a modified retrospective approach.  Under this method, the new accounting standard is applied only to the most recent period presented.  See Note 2 — Revenue Recognition in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.


29


Financial Statements
United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Statement of Operations
 
Year Ended December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
(Dollars and shares in millions, except per share amounts)
 
 
 
 
 
Operating revenues
 
 
 
 
 
Service
$
2,978

 
$
2,978

 
$
3,081

Equipment sales
989

 
912

 
909

Total operating revenues
3,967

 
3,890

 
3,990

 
 
 
 
 
 
Operating expenses
 
 
 
 
 
System operations (excluding Depreciation, amortization and accretion reported below)
758

 
732

 
760

Cost of equipment sold
1,031

 
1,071

 
1,081

Selling, general and administrative (including charges from affiliates of $86 million, $85 million and $94 million in 2018, 2017 and 2016)
1,388

 
1,412

 
1,480

Depreciation, amortization and accretion
640

 
615

 
618

Loss on impairment of goodwill

 
370

 

(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
10

 
17

 
22

(Gain) loss on sale of business and other exit costs, net

 
(1
)
 

(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
(18
)
 
(22
)
 
(19
)
Total operating expenses
3,809

 
4,194

 
3,942

 
 
 
 
 
 
Operating income (loss)
158

 
(304
)
 
48

 
 
 
 
 
 
Investment and other income (expense)
 
 
 
 
 
Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
159

 
137

 
140

Interest and dividend income
15

 
8

 
6

Interest expense
(116
)
 
(113
)
 
(113
)
Other, net
(1
)
 

 
1

Total investment and other income
57

 
32

 
34

 
 
 
 
 
 
Income (loss) before income taxes
215

 
(272
)
 
82

Income tax expense (benefit)
51

 
(287
)
 
33

 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income
164

 
15

 
49

Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests, net of tax
14

 
3

 
1

Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders
$
150

 
$
12

 
$
48

 
 
 
 
 
 
Basic weighted average shares outstanding
86

 
85

 
85

Basic earnings per share attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders
$
1.75

 
$
0.14

 
$
0.56

 
 
 
 
 
 
Diluted weighted average shares outstanding
87

 
86

 
85

Diluted earnings per share attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders
$
1.72

 
$
0.14

 
$
0.56


The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

30


United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows
Year Ended December 31,
2018
 
2017
 
2016
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
Cash flows from operating activities
 
 
 
 
 
Net income
$
164

 
$
15

 
$
49

Add (deduct) adjustments to reconcile net income to net cash flows from operating activities
 
 
 
 
 
Depreciation, amortization and accretion
640

 
615

 
618

Bad debts expense
95

 
89

 
96

Stock-based compensation expense
37

 
30

 
26

Deferred income taxes, net
(3
)
 
(365
)
 
6

Equity in earnings of unconsolidated entities
(159
)
 
(137
)
 
(140
)
Distributions from unconsolidated entities
152

 
136

 
93

Loss on impairment of goodwill

 
370

 

(Gain) loss on asset disposals, net
10

 
17

 
22

(Gain) loss on license sales and exchanges, net
(18
)
 
(22
)
 
(19
)
Other operating activities
3

 
1

 

Changes in assets and liabilities from operations
 
 
 
 
 
Accounts receivable
(39
)
 
(68
)
 
(23
)
Equipment installment plans receivable
(149
)
 
(261
)
 
(246
)
Inventory
(4
)
 

 
8

Accounts payable
3

 
(14
)
 
48

Customer deposits and deferred revenues
7

 
(3
)
 
(54
)
Accrued taxes
(39
)
 
26

 
40

Other assets and liabilities
9

 
40

 
(23
)
Net cash provided by operating activities
709

 
469

 
501

 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash flows from investing activities
 
 
 
 
 
Cash paid for additions to property, plant and equipment
(512
)
 
(465
)
 
(443
)
Cash paid for licenses
(8
)
 
(189
)
 
(53
)
Cash received for investments
50

 

 

Cash paid for investments
(17
)
 
(50
)
 

Cash received from divestitures and exchanges
24

 
21

 
21

Federal Communications Commission deposit

 

 
(143
)
Other investing activities
(1
)
 

 

Net cash used in investing activities
(464
)
 
(683
)
 
(618
)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash flows from financing activities
 
 
 
 
 
Repayment of long-term debt
(19
)
 
(14
)
 
(11
)
Common shares reissued for benefit plans, net of tax payments
18

 
1

 
6

Common shares repurchased

 

 
(5
)
Distributions to noncontrolling interests
(6
)
 
(4
)
 
(1
)
Other financing activities
(7
)
 
(3
)
 
(1
)
Net cash used in financing activities
(14
)
 
(20
)
 
(12
)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net increase (decrease) in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
231

 
(234
)
 
(129
)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
 

 
 

 
 

Beginning of period
352

 
586

 
715

End of period
$
583

 
$
352

 
$
586

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.


31


United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Balance Sheet — Assets
 
December 31,
2018
 
2017
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
Current assets
 
 
 
Cash and cash equivalents
$
580

 
$
352

Short-term investments
17

 
50

Accounts receivable
 
 
 
Customers and agents, less allowances of $66 and $55, respectively
908

 
775

Roaming
20

 
26

Affiliated
2

 
1

Other, less allowances of $2 and $1, respectively
46

 
41

Inventory, net
142

 
138

Prepaid expenses
63

 
79

Other current assets
34

 
21

Total current assets
1,812


1,483

 
 
 
 
Assets held for sale
54

 
10

 
 
 
 
Licenses
2,186

 
2,223

 
 
 
 
Investments in unconsolidated entities
441

 
415

 
 
 
 
Property, plant and equipment
 
 
 
In service and under construction
7,778

 
7,628

Less: Accumulated depreciation and amortization
5,576

 
5,308

Property, plant and equipment, net
2,202

 
2,320

 
 
 
 
Other assets and deferred charges
579

 
390

 
 
 
 
Total assets1
$
7,274


$
6,841


The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.


32


United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Balance Sheet — Liabilities and Equity

December 31,
2018
 
2017
(Dollars and shares in millions, except per share amounts)
 
 
 
Current liabilities
 
 
 
Current portion of long-term debt
$
19

 
$
18

Accounts payable
 
 
 
Affiliated
9

 
8

Trade
304

 
302

Customer deposits and deferred revenues
157

 
185

Accrued taxes
30

 
56

Accrued compensation
78

 
74

Other current liabilities
94

 
90

Total current liabilities
691


733

 
 
 
 
Liabilities held for sale
1

 

 
 
 
 
Deferred liabilities and credits
 
 
 
Deferred income tax liability, net
510

 
461

Other deferred liabilities and credits
389

 
337

 
 
 
 
Long-term debt, net
1,605

 
1,622

 
 
 
 
Commitments and contingencies


 


 
 
 
 
Noncontrolling interests with redemption features
11

 
1

 
 
 
 
Equity
 
 
 
U.S. Cellular shareholders’ equity
 
 
 
Series A Common and Common Shares
 
 
 
Authorized 190 shares (50 Series A Common and 140 Common Shares)
 
 
 
Issued 88 shares (33 Series A Common and 55 Common Shares)
 
 
 
Outstanding 86 shares (33 Series A Common and 53 Common Shares) and 85 shares (33 Series A Common and 52 Common Shares), respectively
 
 
 
Par Value ($1.00 per share) ($33 Series A Common and $55 Common Shares)
88

 
88

Additional paid-in capital
1,590

 
1,552

Treasury shares, at cost, 2 and 3 Common Shares, respectively
(65
)
 
(120
)
Retained earnings
2,444

 
2,157

Total U.S. Cellular shareholders' equity
4,057


3,677

 
 
 
 
Noncontrolling interests
10

 
10

 
 
 
 
Total equity
4,067

 
3,687

 
 
 
 
Total liabilities and equity1
$
7,274

 
$
6,841

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.
 
1 
The consolidated total assets as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, include assets held by consolidated variable interest entities (VIEs) of $868 million and $785 million, respectively, which are not available to be used to settle the obligations of U.S. Cellular.  The consolidated total liabilities as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, include certain liabilities of consolidated VIEs of $23 million and $24 million, respectively, for which the creditors of the VIEs have no recourse to the general credit of U.S. Cellular.  See Note 13Variable Interest Entities for additional information.

33


United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Statement of Changes in Equity
 
 
U.S. Cellular Shareholders
 
 

 
 

 
Series A
Common and
Common
shares
 
Additional
paid-in
capital
 
Treasury
shares
 
Retained
earnings
 
Total
U.S. Cellular
shareholders'
equity
 
Noncontrolling
interests
 
Total equity
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2017
$
88

 
$
1,552

 
$
(120
)
 
$
2,157

 
$
3,677

 
$
10

 
$
3,687

Cumulative effect of accounting change

 

 

 
175

 
175

 
1

 
176

Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders

 

 

 
150

 
150

 

 
150

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests classified as equity

 

 

 

 

 
2

 
2

Incentive and compensation plans

 
1

 
55

 
(38
)
 
18

 

 
18

Stock-based compensation awards

 
37

 

 

 
37

 

 
37

Distributions to noncontrolling interests

 

 

 

 

 
(3
)
 
(3
)
December 31, 2018
$
88

 
$
1,590

 
$
(65
)
 
$
2,444

 
$
4,057

 
$
10

 
$
4,067


 The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

34


United States Cellular Corporation
Consolidated Statement of Changes in Equity
 
 
U.S. Cellular Shareholders
 
 

 
 

 
Series A
Common and
Common
shares
 
Additional
paid-in
capital
 
Treasury
shares
 
Retained
earnings
 
Total
U.S. Cellular
shareholders'
equity
 
Noncontrolling
interests
 
Total equity
(Dollars in millions)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2016
$
88

 
$
1,522

 
$
(136
)
 
$
2,160

 
$
3,634

 
$
11

 
$
3,645

Net income attributable to U.S. Cellular shareholders

 

 

 
12

 
12

 

 
12

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests classified as equity

 

 

 

 

 
3

 
3

Incentive and compensation plans

 

 
16

 
(15
)
 
1

 

 
1

Stock-based compensation awards

 
30

 

 

 
30

 

 
30

Distributions to noncontrolling interests

 

 

 

 

 
(4
)
 
(4
)
December 31, 2017
$
88


$
1,552