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2015’s US Carrier Competition: It’ll be An Exciting Ride

December 24, 2014 - Written By David Steele

2014 is drawing to a conclusion, and 2015 is a week away; how are the US carriers lining up against one another for the coming twelve months? First, let’s take a quick look at 2014 as it’s been a remarkable year from a competition perspective. We’ve seen almost one hundred and fifty pricing actions or promotions from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, excluding the extended promotions – this is more than double the 2013 number. We’ve seen early termination credits applied to bills, tablet data for life, double data promotions and no cash down equipment plans. Where the carriers have calmed down is in changing and restructuring the plans; instead, they’ve relied on promotions without having to change their prices (for the most part).

For 2015 and something that we are all interested in is how the carriers are working on their networks, because most of us are happy to pay good money for a service if that service delivers what we are paying for! Of the two main US carriers, AT&T and Verizon reached their 2014 coverage targets but have and will continue spending money on improving their coverage and, critically, capacity. T-Mobile USA and Sprint are still working on catching up with AT&T and Verizon in order to reach the same LTE coverage and capacity. There’s another complication here in that we are expecting the carriers to continue pushing and improving their VoLTE coverage. VoLTE, or Voice over LTE, is a method of carrying voice calls over the LTE data network). It’s beneficial to the carriers because LTE networks are far higher capacity than 3G and 2G networks, so fewer masts are needed to carry voice calls. The technology is great for customers because VoLTE call quality is improved over 2G and 3G plus it keeps the device connected to the 4G network, so reduces the need to move up and down the network technologies: some devices do not elegantly move up to LTE from a 3G network! 2015 is also the year when we are expecting cross-network VoLTE support. We are also going to see ongoing development following the AWS auctions.

Sprint are something of an unknown going into 2015. The business needs to grow: by Q3 2014, it had lost almost 600,000 customers. We’ve seen positive noises and changes in the business and the new management are serious about playing to win the US market. Of course, the other carriers are not going to let Sprint take the fight to them but will continue to keep up the pressure. AT&T and Verizon are not likely to be as offer-driven as Sprint and, also, T-Mobile, but we’ve seen that they will happily use double data promotions. I’d say that Sprint are the network to watch out for, and I’d expect them to try something a little different from the norm. What of our readers? Are you planning to change your carrier in 2015? Are you happy with the deal you currently have? Let us know in the comments below.