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|
|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|
|Source: Wireless operators' Q2 results|
For more Q2 coverage
- T-Mobile Looks Ahead as It Bleeds Customers
- Leap Wireless Promises Results After Weak Q2
- MetroPCS: LTE Will Bring Subscribers Back
- Sprint LTE: First, We Take Manhattan (Kansas)
- Sprint Hunkers Down for Network Vision
- Verizon: Shared Data Won't Shake User Revenue
- Verizon CFO Is a Tease on iPhone Timing
- Verizon Reports $1.83B Profit for Q2
- AT&T's 4G Capex Gets Dense
- AT&T Sells 5.1M Smartphones in Q2