US Wireless Q1 Scorecard

The first quarter was dramatic for wireless operators in the U.S. with Long Term Evolution (LTE) services starting, Verizon Wireless beginning to sell the iPhone and AT&T announcing plans to acquire T-Mobile US Inc. . (See Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4 , Verizon Speeds Up LTE Expansion and AT&T to Acquire T-Mobile for $39B.)

The U.S. wireless race has already winnowed to AT&T and Verizon, which went head-to-head on metrics. Verizon added substantially more subscribers in the quarter thanks to the iPhone, but AT&T's bottom line wasn't hurt because of it. Even Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) held its own thanks to its prepaid business, but the carrier has been telling everyone who'll listen that it's going to get harder for them if AT&T absorbs T-Mobile. (See AT&T Takes the Oath on T-Mobile Merger).

All of the operators, including the smaller players, talked up mobile Internet growth, driven by the adoption of smartphones, particularly Android-based phones, in most cases .

Here's a snapshot of how the top eight operators fared in the first quarter:

Table 1: Tier 1 Wireless Operators' Q1 Earnings
Verizon Wireless AT&T Sprint T-Mobile
Total Revenue $27.0 billion $31.2�billion $8.3 billion $5.16 billion
Total Subscribers 104 million 97.5 million 51 million 33.6 million
Postpaid Subscriber Additions 906,000 165,000 -114,000 -471,000
Postpaid ARPU $53.52 $63.39 $56 $52
Total Postpaid Churn 1.01 percent 1.18 percent 1.81 percent 2.4 percent
Source: VZW, AT&T, Sprint & Deutsche Telekom

Table 2: Tier 2 Operators' Q1 Earnings
Clearwire US Cellular MetroPCS Leap Wireless
Total Revenue $242 million $985.1 million $1.2 billion $779.9 million
Total Subscribers 6.15 million 6.1 million 8.9 million 5.8 million
Postpaid Subscriber Additions 1.8 million Lost 22,000 725,000 (prepaid) 331,000 (prepaid)
Postpaid ARPU $46.32 (retail) $51.21 $40.42 (prepaid) $39.35 (prepaid)
Total Postpaid Churn 3.3 percent (retail) 1.37 percent 3.1 percent (prepaid) 3.1 percent (prepaid)
Source: Clearwire, US Cellular, MetroPCS & Leap Wireless

For more of LR Mobile's first-quarter analysis:

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:05:21 PM
re: US Wireless Q1 Scorecard

A reader made a good point that looking at overall revenues can be misleading. We did that for consistency, but the other metrics are worth looking at too. For example, AT&T reported total revenues of $32.1 billion, but wireless revenues were $15.3 billion, which doesn't trample Sprint and T-Mobile when adjusted for their subscriber numbers. Connected devices also change the subscriber addition numbers, but postpaid subscribers (people) will always be the most valuable.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:05:20 PM
re: US Wireless Q1 Scorecard


I think the churn metrics are fascinating.  Verizon has over 15% better churn numbers than AT&T.  It goes downhill fast after that.  I have no view to why that is (coverage maybe)?  But that seems to be a huge advantage for Vz and T over everyone else.



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