US Wireless Operators' Q2 2012 Scorecard

The seasonably soft second quarter has come to a close with all the major U.S. wireless operators having reported their earnings -- with varying levels of success.

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett dubbed the second quarter, "Goldilocks Wireless," which he defines as "a period of just-right slow growth and above average profitability."

Broken down, it means that -- in general -- weak subscriber growth metrics plus strong revenue per user metrics plus low churn rates and subsidies and stellar profitability metrics average out to a just right quarter. Overall, traditional post paid subscribers actually declined in the second quarter, and even prepaid subscribers slowed, but higher average revenue per user (ARPU) helped keep margins in check.

For Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the quarter was defined by growth in Long Term Evolution (LTE) and prepping for new pricing plans. For Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. , it was marked by trying to retain customers in the wait for LTE and eking out more revenue from each in the meantime. (See Verizon: One Data Bucket to Rule Them All and AT&T Joins Verizon in the Shared Data Pool.)

The smaller players, MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS), Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP), U.S. Cellular Corp. (NYSE: USM) and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) felt the squeeze more as they transitioned to LTE and duked it out on price.

Check out the charts below for a look at some of the U.S. operators' key metrics and how they compared in the second quarter.

Table 1: Tier 1 Wireless Operators Q2 Scorecard
Verizon Wireless AT&T Wireless Sprint T-Mobile
Wireless Revenue $18.6 billion $16.4 billion $7.3 billion $4.4 billion
Total Subscribers 94.2 million 105.2 million 56 million 33.1 million
Subscriber Additions 1.2 million 1.3 million 442,000 lost 205,000
Postpaid ARPU $56.13 $64.93 $63.38 $57.35
Postpaid Churn 0.84% 0.97% 1.69% 2.1%
Data ARPU $24.53 $28.04 Does not report $19.16
Source: Wireless operators' Q2 wireless-only results

Table 2: Tier 2 Wireless Operators Q2 Scorecard
MetroPCS Leap Wireless US Cellular Clearwire
Total Revenue $1.3 billion $786.8 million $1.1 billion $316.9 million
Total Subscribers 9.3 million 5.9 million 5.8 million 11 million
Subscriber Additions lost 186,000 lost 289,270 lost 28,000 lost 42,000
ARPU $40.62 $41.64 $54.42 $46.12
Churn 3.4% 4.4% 1.57% 4.4%
Source: Wireless operators' Q2 results

For more Q2 coverage
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:24:00 PM
re: US Wireless Operators' Q2 2012 Scorecard

Smartphone penetration passed 50% for the first time in the U.S., which was a boon to data ARPU as well. But, there has to be a ceiling the ARPU operators can eke out of their customers, so the hunt for new subscribers will continue...Hopefully more successfully in future quarters. 

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