While the first quarter of 2015 is not quite over, it ends at the end of March, we’re starting to get a peak of what the carriers are expecting to report in late April and early May for earnings. It appears that AT&T is expecting to add about 400,000 new postpaid customers. That’s down from 625,000 a year ago. It’s also important to point out that the first quarter is always the slower quarter for most of these carriers, as people bought a ton of phones in the fourth quarter for Christmas and such.
AT&T’s CFO, John Stephens appeared at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, and stated that his company will add postpaid smartphone customers in the quarter, but will likely continue to lose feature phone customers. That’s not surprising, as we’re seeing more and more feature phone users switching over to smartphones. Stephens didn’t elaborate on the figures for handset additions, but did not that smartphone customers typically generate twice the average revenue per user or ARPU, as non-smartphone subscribers. Stephens also stated that AT&T shifting to Software-Define Networking, should let the company cut it’s capital expenditures as a percentage of service revenue throughout the quarter.
Additionally, AT&T stated that their churn rate has decreased. Last year it was 1.07, and last quarter it was 1.22. For those unaware, churn rate is the number of customers coming to AT&T vs the ones leaving to go to other carriers. Lately, all the carriers churn rates have increased, except for T-Mobile’s. With Verizon having the highest. AT&T also said that their Mobile Share Value plans are doing very as well as their prepaid brand Cricket, which they bought recently. Cricket has been doing all kinds of promotions in the past year or so, and have really been gaining customers, so that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Jennifer Fritszche, who is an analyst at Wells Fargo, stated in a research note that AT&T’s expected postpaid subscriber results are a bit lower than she expected. She admittedly was expecting around 450,000, so AT&T is only off by about 50,000 right now. She stated, “in our view, the above mentioned wireless revenue issues is more an issue of timing than anything else, in our view.” She continued, “We would expect the [year-over-year] decline in this metric to improve each quarter throughout 2015. Also lost in this release may be a very meaningful comment on churn.”
While AT&T is going to have a slightly slower quarter than analysts and investors expected and wanted. AT&T is still going to be adding customers. So it could be worse for them.