U.S. wireless carriers added the lowest number of net new subscribers on record--139,000--in the second quarter, owing in large part to Sprint's shutdown of its Nextel iDEN network, according to a new report from Chetan Sharma Consulting.
After years of talking about mergers and acquisitions, the nation's top wireless carriers got down to business during the second quarter of this year, with T-Mobile US working to integrate its purchase of MetroPCS and Sprint closing on its purchase of Clearwire and netting an investment from Japan's SoftBank. AT&T also announced the purchase of Leap Wireless. What does this all mean?
MetroPCS, which is now owned by T-Mobile US, has expanded its service to 15 additional markets. In addition, the company is able to offer customers access to T-Mobile's LTE network. Plus, MetroPCS' service is now being sold by an additional 325 resellers. Contrast this deal with AT&T's July 12 announcement of its plans to acquire Leap Wireless for $1.2 billion.
T-Mobile US surged back to strong postpaid subscriber growth in the second quarter, thanks in part to the addition of Apple's iPhone to its lineup. The company's "Un-carrier" strategy of providing cheaper, no-contract rate plans appears to be paying off so far, though the question will be how much momentum T-Mobile can retain throughout the rest of the year. The company promised no letup, and CEO John Legere said the company will unveil "Un-carrier 3.0" proposals to add more pressure to its larger rivals.
AT&T previously passed on an opportunity to strike a deal with no-contract wireless carrier Leap Wireless but was ultimately the only bidder for the company and wound up paying 58 percent more than it had initially offered, according to a securities filing.
T-Mobile US will expand the spectrum channels it is using for LTE service to 2x10 MHz in the vast majority of the major markets across the United States by year-end, the company said.
Less than three months after its merger with MetroPCS, T-Mobile US said it has expanded the MetroPCS footprint by 50 million POPs. Along with starting service in 15 new metro areas, T-Mobile also said it is expanding its bring-your-own-device service to all MetroPCS customers.
The fate of the regional operator is in question in light of the recent consolidation in the U.S. wireless industry. Research firm iGR estimates that the number of subscribers serviced by regional operators has dwindled from 22.2 million in 2012 to 12.5 million today. And with AT&T Mobility's planned $1.2 billion acquisition of Leap Wireless, that number will likely drop to 8 million or fewer by the end of 2013.
With its integration of MetroPCS' assets proceeding smoothly, is T-Mobile US gearing up to acquire yet another regional operator, such as Leap Wireless?
T-Mobile US is not talking about whether it met its goal of deploying LTE covering 100 million POPs in the U.S. by the end of June. In response to questions from FierceWireless, Alexandra Schwerin, spokeswoman for T-Mobile said this: "T-Mobile remains committed to achieving the LTE milestones we've previously announced and we have nothing new to share at this time."