2016 has been a crazy year for everybody, and that includes wireless carriers. Among the four big US carriers, the third quarter of the year has largely been a fortunate one, with early reports and market analytics seeing free cash growth, subscriber growth, and even rising average revenue per user, for some carriers. One of the Big Four, however, may have a bit of a dicier third quarter than their contemporaries. According to analysts with Wells Fargo, that carrier is AT&T, and the misfortune that they are projected to face is a relative net loss on postpaid subscriber growth, which would make them the only carrier to have such a mark on their Q3 report for this year.
According to Wells Fargo’s data, AT&T has lost about 200,000 postpaid subscribers through the third quarter. They did manage to gain 300,000 or so new postpaid subscribers and 200,000 new prepaid ones, but the damaging churn could still result in posting a net loss, since current numbers have it as being at 1.16%. ARPU for postpaid subscribers on AT&T, meanwhile, is set at $60.20, down 1% year over year, but up .7% since last quarter. This comes as AT&T shifts gears to focus on generating more prepaid adds, which have the potential to be more valuable than their postpaid contemporaries. Meanwhile, the holiday season is coming up, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 scandal rocked the wireless world, and the iPhone 7 recently dropped; all of these factors are playing their part in the general shape of the market.
Things are looking pretty okay among the competition. Sprint’s report from yesterday highlights 347,000 net postpaid adds, while analysts expect Verizon to net 92,000, and T-Mobile is projected to see an insane 992,000 new postpaid net adds. Clearly, T-Mobile is rocking the boat, and Sprint is catching those who want out of the bigger carriers but don’t want to run to T-Mobile. This all-out assault by the smaller carriers on their bigger cousins will make for a very interesting Q4 as everybody fights for consumers’ holiday season spending money and new subscribers. As for AT&T in particular, while Wells Fargo’s data is usually pretty accurate this late in the game, nothing is set in stone until AT&T puts out their official earnings call.