To summarize the performance of the Big Four wireless carriers in the United States (namely Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) during the final quarter of 2015, Fierce Wireless published a report based on information provided by research firm Strategy Analytics showing how each major wireless carrier fared in terms of the number of subscribers, net additions, postpaid smartphone net additions, churn rate (customer turnover rate), and average revenue per user (ARPU). Not surprisingly, Verizon Wireless was the clear leader in most of the categories, only conceding the top spot in terms of postpaid smartphone net additions to T-Mobile (widely considered the third biggest wireless carrier in the US behind the Big Red and AT&T). To view the rankings, head to this web page.
Fierce Wireless also took the opportunity to join forces with Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, in providing an in depth look at how Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint performed in the fourth quarter of 2015. Here are the most significant points:
Decrease in smartphone sales. Revenues from smartphones sold by the four major US wireless carriers decreased from 42 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 38 million units during the same period in 2015. This is the first time that smartphone sales have fallen year on year. There are two possible explanations for this. First, the holiday season quarter of 2014 was truly a record setting three month period in smartphone history, due to the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, two of the best selling smartphone devices of all time. It would have been difficult for the last quarter of 2015 to beat that. Secondly, the strong demand for the iPhone 6 devices meant some people upgraded their iPhones earlier. Instead of making the upgrade in the first quarter of 2015, they decided to do it in the holiday season of 2014 because it appeared that everybody was doing so.
Negative revenue growth for wireless carriers. The combined revenues of the major US wireless carriers also fell year on year. Obviously, the decreasing sales of smartphones have something to do with this. But another factor is the rising popularity of smartphone leasing plans, which has the effect of slowing down service revenue.
Postpaid smartphone net additions. T-Mobile’s aggressive marketing efforts may have paid off -- it leads other major US wireless carriers in terms of postpaid smartphone net additions, even posting twice as much as Verizon’s. Overall, the combined volume of postpaid smartphone net additions is starting to rebound.
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