Carriers in the United States are predicted by analysts to face a tough third quarter for 2017. The projected downturn is mainly due to falling service revenues, which come from the resources involved in continuing to provide the unlimited plans that drove the upswing in demand that characterized the second quarter of the year. With the market nearing saturation, carriers may find that growing net adds in postpaid means poaching customers from other carriers through aggressive promotions or price wars, which will also increase expenditure. An additional possible factor is the upcoming release of Apple's newest iPhone, an event that tends to shake things up each year, and cause a spike in carrier spending for device leases.
The pieces are all in place for US carriers to have a rough time maintaining the second quarter's momentum and having it carry over into the third quarter, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. The second quarter saw all of the nation's four biggest carriers doing fairly well. It was the very first quarter in the history of the wireless segment that all four major mobile carriers offered unlimited LTE data plans, and it showed in customer acquisition and retention. The postpaid net adds and revenue figures for the carriers reflect this, and some truly unique and powerful promotions saw the light of day during this period as well, such as a year of free unlimited talk, text, and data for switchers to Sprint.
Any merger and acquisition activity within the four carriers, such as one between Sprint and T-Mobile that seems to be in the works, could transform the market. According to analysts, though, the shape of the market may well be the only thing affected by a merger or acquisition during the third quarter. Analysts don't see a strong case for a combined carrier dominating competitors in the immediate future any more so than the two would have done separately. Cable providers bringing their MNVO agreements to bear, however, could affect competition in the space. Cable providers have a large install base of current users, who may well see a reason to bundle in their wireless service with their home services, or be convinced to do so by promotional packages.