'Big 3' wireless providers expected to deliver steady Q1 results

First quarter expectations for Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are mostly rosy thanks to a relatively benign competitive environment in the wireless industry playing out against a mostly healthy US economy.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

April 10, 2024

4 Min Read
Man holding a smartphone in his hands
(Source: JeongHyeon Noh/Alamy Stock Photo)

The three big wireless network operators in the US – AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon – are expected to turn in "solid" financial results and "healthy" customer figures for the first quarter of this year, according to a handful of financial analyst firms.

"We are expecting a solid start to 2024, supported by a constructive macro backdrop and healthy volume trends," wrote the financial analysts with Morgan Stanley in a note to investors last week.

"Let the good times roll," agreed the financial analysts with KeyBanc Capital Markets in a March note to investors.

Verizon is scheduled to kick off the first quarter reporting season on Monday, April 22, followed by AT&T on Wednesday, April 24, and T-Mobile on Thursday, April 25.

The details

Most analysts expect AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to report customer growth in line with their projections, alongside financial gains in earnings and revenues. And that's mostly due to the relatively benign competitive environment in the wireless industry playing out against a mostly healthy US economy.

"2024 looks fruitful," summarized the financial analysts at Wolfe Research in a note to investors last week. Wireless operators, they explained, continue to quietly increase their service pricing, having avoided a "race to the bottom" following their 5G network launches, T-Mobile's purchase of Sprint and cable's entry into the wireless market.

However, most analysts expect the US wireless market to continue cooling off following a few years of frenetic pandemic growth. For example, the financial analysts at Evercore ISI predict that big wireless network operators will collectively sign up 1.62 million postpaid phone net customer additions during the first quarter of 2024. That would be a decline of 236,000 customers compared with the year-ago quarter – but it's not the massive drop that some had feared.

Indeed, the analysts at Wolfe Research predict big US operators will collectively sign up 7.6 million new postpaid phone customers during the course of 2024, which is still above historical norms of around 6 million.

Has cable's pace of mobile growth peaked?

And what of cable MVNOs like Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Altice USA and Comcast? During the past several years, they've crashed into the US wireless marketplace, gobbling up much of the market's growth.

"We see signs that cable's aggregate rate of growth peaked in '23," wrote the Wolfe Research analysts. "While cable keeps taking postpaid phone share, especially with 1 & 2 line accounts, churn is stable at a low level, and the Big 3 telcos are splitting the larger, premium, and business markets judiciously."

"While we believe a long term discount to cable is warranted, wireless fundamentals in terms of EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] growth and FCF [free cash flow] generation are currently superior, suggesting the wireless valuation premium is warranted," agreed the KeyBanc analysts.

Indeed, shares in AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have risen significantly in recent months while cable company stock prices have fallen amid declines in their core Internet businesses.

Nonetheless, the financial analysts at TD Cowen still expect cable companies to account for 43% of all postpaid phone net customer additions in 2024, up from 42% in 2023.

Stacking up the 'Big 3' in Q1

Here are some specific Q1 predictions for each of the US market's big wireless providers:


The financial analysts at TD Cowen expect AT&T to gain 251,000 postpaid phone net customer additions. That's lower than the 424,000 AT&T notched in the same quarter a year ago.

During the quarter AT&T suffered a network outage and cybersecurity incident, but it also managed to implement a pricing increase that ought to buoy its financials.


The TD Cowen analysts expect T-Mobile to gain another 473,000 postpaid phone net customer additions, slightly less than it notched in the year-ago quarter. Postpaid phone customers are widely considered the most valuable type of wireless customer.

T-Mobile continues to make progress in its efforts to expand its business in rural areas, and to grow its sales among business customers. 


The TD Cowen analysts expect Verizon to lose around 201,000 postpaid phone customers in its consumer division, though they noted Verizon continues to improve that business after years of losses.

The TD Cowen analysts said Verizon remains focused on improving its consumer business throughout 2024 by expanding its midband 5G network, improving its local marketing efforts and leveraging its fixed wireless services. "A few of these drivers will be hitting full stride throughout the year," they wrote.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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