The wireless industry has plateaued a bit in recent years, but according to some analysts at Deutsche Bank Markets Research, all four carriers will return to year-over-year service revenue growth this year. However, the analysts do note that this isn't expected to happen all at once, but throughout the year. These analysts also pointed out that all four major carriers have not had year-over-year service revenue growth since 2014. In a research note this week, Deutsche Bank Markets Research noted that it "expects first-quarter 2018 results to showcase improving ARPU/service revenue and margin results."
While 2017 was all about unlimited data wars between the four carriers, the analysts are pointing towards the price increases that all four carriers have added in recent months. Stating that it provides a "healthier pricing backdrop". Analysts specifically pointed to AT&T's recent changes to its unlimited offerings, as well as T-Mobile debuting its Unlimited 55+ plan for those over 55 years of age. However, the bigger force driving year-over-year service revenue growth is indeed the incredibly low postpaid phone churn with the carriers – minus Sprint. That is mostly due to the fact that most people are not upgrading their phones every year, or even every other year now, so there's less smartphones being bought and less switching from one carrier to another.
With the wireless carriers beginning to announce first quarter, 2018 results next month, it won't be too long before we find out how much service revenue is going to grow, at least in the first quarter – and set the benchmark for 2018. The carriers have all been in intense pricing battles in the past few years, which has led to decreases in service revenue, however it appears now that many carriers are starting to slowly raise prices as it gets closer to rolling out 5G. In 2018, 5G has been a big topic, with both Sprint and T-Mobile announcing plans last month at Mobile World Congress, to launch a 5G network before the end of the year – though 5G-capable smartphones won't be available until next year at the earliest on those two carriers. Verizon is slated to have its 5G network up this year as well, and is planning on having a few 5G-capable devices on the market before the end of the year.