The big four wireless carriers in the United States, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T, all had Jefferies analysts' estimates for their first quarter of the year lowered significantly in the face of plateauing smartphone growth and mounting market competition. Among carriers who had the figure extrapolated by Jefferies, T-Mobile still had the strongest net postpaid adds for the quarter with a cool 800,000 seeing a relatively minor drop to 720,000. AT&T's drop wasn't as much of a drop in the bucket, with a figure of 112,000 making its way down to 72,000. Sprint, meanwhile, went from 55,000 to 50,000, the lowest number of the measured carriers for postpaid net adds. While Jefferies did not extrapolate Verizon's postpaid net adds, they did drop their estimate for average revenue per account down to $139.21, a figure that would mark a 4.2 percent year on year drop.
According to analysts, a quarter that's already a bit less aggressive than usual with new wireless subscribers was helped along in its quest for mediocrity by a number of competitive initiatives, such as feature competition and price wars in unlimited plans. The pressure was on to attract customers at the cost of average revenue per user, which meant that revenue went down and churn went up across the industry as consumers incessantly shopped around for the best deal, often being swayed by promotions.
Essentially, the unlimited and price wars started by T-Mobile and Sprint spurred growth for consumers, but have finally caught up with them. While these actions have not exactly met with a catastrophic backfire, they have shed their temporary advantage and changed the game in the wireless market, a state that would naturally result in a bit of a reduction all around, until everybody adjusts to the new market and reshapes their strategies. Consumers, meanwhile, were having their cake and eating it, too; T-Mobile customers not on a grandfathered plan could finally stream in HD without paying extra, AT&T customers who didn't want DIRECTV gained access to unlimited data, Sprint faithful saw their prices fall and network spending pay off despite the company's recent misfortunes, and Verizon customers finally got unlimited data for the first time in about half a decade. The next quarter and the rest of this year will see a shifting wireless landscape as carriers race to roll out 5G while keeping consumers satisfied in the new market landscape.