Optical/IP Networks

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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