T-Mobile has seen their bottom line grow thanks to floods of new users, and that trend continued in the fourth quarter of the year as they reported leading postpaid subscriber additions and rival AT&T put out a performance for the quarter that put them in a position to have potentially led postpaid subscriber loss for the quarter. While this sounds like a painful story for AT&T, with T-Mobile hitting them right where it hurts the most, a recent shift in their game plan has made the loss largely inconsequential to their bottom line; while T-Mobile has largely been sacrificing average revenue per user, or ARPU, in order to net new subscribers, AT&T has been aggressive about value-adds and chasing the high ARPU consumers, painting themselves as a premium option with addons like DIRECTV NOW.
Reports show T-Mobile as having around 1.2 million total postpaid adds for the quarter, with some 933,000 being phone activations. According to Wells Fargo senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche, this number is due at least in part to T-Mobile's newest promotions, such as T-Mobile One plans and offering up the newest iPhone for free to qualifying customers with the right trade-in devices. With T-Mobile One and its Plus variant aimed squarely at making unlimited data a centerpiece in contrast to other carriers, conditions were just right for T-Mobile to swipe postpaid switchers fleeing other carriers for their various reasons. On the back of this growth, Fritzsche reported that Wells Fargo has updated some of their figure estimates for T-Mobile; ARPU is now set at $48.27, and the firm expects to see somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 customers on T-Mobile make the switch from prepaid to postpaid.
AT&T, on the other hand, seemed to languish in subscriber count. While they have yet to put out their official Q4 earnings call, Wells Fargo's estimates point to about 220,000 net postpaid subscribers being lost, while the gain estimate is set at 350,000. If this prediction comes true, it would be no stretch to say that AT&T runs the risk of having the biggest postpaid subscriber loss of all the major carriers for the quarter. Weighing in on the other players, Wells Fargo said that Verizon likely saw 57,000 postpaid adds and 100,000 postpaid losses, while Sprint could be looking at 375,000 postpaid adds offset by a prepaid loss of 250,000 subscribers.