A look at telecom-industry subscriber reports
Telecommunications companies have been releasing their earnings reports for the latest quarter. Here is a summary of reports for selected telecommunications companies and what they reveal about their own and the industry's prospects.
— July 19: Verizon Communications Inc. says its wireless unit gained a net 1.2 million subscribers — a strong result in an industry where subscriber gains have tapered off now that nearly everyone has a cellphone. Of the new subscribers, 888,000 were on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. Verizon Wireless has 94.2 million retail subscribers. The profit margin at Verizon Wireless was the highest ever, as average monthly fees for contract-signing subscribers rose 3.7 percent to $56.13. Verizon is benefiting from the growing popularity of smartphones, which come with data fees.
— July 24: AT&T Inc. says it saw declining smartphone sales, leading to the best profitability ever in its wireless arm as it saved on phone subsidies. It activated 5.1 million smartphones in its latest quarter, down from 5.5 million a year ago. Much of the decline came because AT&T subscribers are holding on to their phones longer. AT&T added a net 320,000 subscribers on contract-based plans in the quarter. However, more than half of the new subscribers were tablet users, who pay less than smartphone users.
— July 26: Sprint Nextel Corp. reports it was successful in persuading smartphone subscribers to pay up for "unlimited data" service, and its service revenue zoomed, beating estimates. Sprint activated 1.5 million iPhones in the quarter, the same number as in the first quarter. By contrast, AT&T and Verizon saw a drop in iPhone activations as the excitement around the latest model, the iPhone 4S, cooled. Sprint is the only one of the four national wireless carriers that still offers unlimited data service, though it offers relatively slow data speeds.
MetroPCS Communications Inc., a provider of contract-free service, says it lost about 186,000 subscribers to end the quarter at 9.3 million.
— July 31: Frontier Communications Corp. ended the quarter with 3.1 million residential lines, down about 67,000 from the previous quarter.
— Aug. 1: Comcast Corp. says it added 158,000 phone customers to end the quarter with 9.7 million.
— Aug. 2: Time Warner Cable Inc. says it added 45,000 residential phone customers to end with 5 million.
— Aug. 3: U.S. Cellular Corp., a unit of Telephone Data and Systems Inc., lost a record 48,000 subscribers from contract-based plans in the quarter. That was partly offset by a gain of 20,000 contract-free customers. The company ended the quarter with 5.8 million customers, making it the seventh-largest cellphone company in the country.
— Aug. 6: Leap Wireless International Inc., the nation's sixth-largest cellphone carrier and operator of the Cricket brand, says it lost 289,000 customers during the quarter to end with 5.9 million.
— Aug. 8: CenturyLink Inc. says it had 14.1 million access lines, a loss of 234,000 during the quarter.
— Aug. 9: T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, says it lost a net 205,000 subscribers in the second quarter, a record for the period. Among phone subscribers under contract, it lost 557,000 subscribers, also the highest number of the second quarter.
Windstream Corp. says it has 2.9 million phone lines. It lost about 29,000 during the quarter.
— Aug. 21: MetroPCS, a cellphone company that targets low-income urban households, says it's cutting the price on its unlimited data service, going against the flow of the biggest phone companies, including AT&T and Verizon. MetroPCS has just activated a new fourth-generation, or "4G" data network, leaving it with some spare capacity.
— Aug. 22: T-Mobile says it will start selling an unlimited-data plan again on Sept. 5, after stopping sales of such plans early last year. T-Mobile had been calling all its data plans "unlimited," but once a customer hits a certain level of usage in a month, it would slow down speeds drastically. Under T-Mobile's new unlimited plans, all data would be at maximum speed.