According to a detailed report from New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin on wireless carriers in the first quarter, fewer people are buying smartphones. This means that wireless carriers as a group will no longer benefit from millions of people upgrading from a feature phone to a smartphone--those who want smartphones already have them, and those who don't most likely won't buy one anytime soon.
The following charts the top U.S. wireless carriers in the first quarter of 2013 by subscriber base, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, and includes major metrics--such as churn, ARPU and revenue--of each carrier.
Sprint Nextel is shifting its focus to the future and its CDMA and LTE networks as it nears the shutdown of its Nextel iDEN network, scheduled for the middle of the year. As it has in the past several quarters, the company reported relatively strong metrics for its "Sprint platform" (CDMA and LTE) while losing subscribers from its legacy Nextel (iDEN) network.
UK operator EE said it signed up 318,000 LTE customers during its first five months of offering the service, but the company still reported a decline both in its overall subscriber base and service revenue in the first quarter of the year.
Verizon Wireless reported a record-high profit margin in the first quarter of 2013 as it continued to benefit from its Share Everything shared data plans, which were introduced last June. The carrier said that its average revenue per account grew steadily, as it has in the past several quarters. Verizon said that 30 percent of its retail postpaid customers are now on its shared data plans.
In preliminary subscriber figures for the first quarter of 2013, T-Mobile USA managed to reverse its "branded customer" losses, recording a net gain of 3,000 branded customers during the period. The figure is notable considering T-Mobile reported a loss of 349,000 branded customers in the previous quarter and the loss of 262,000 branded customers in the year-ago quarter.
T-Mobile USA closed out the fourth quarter of 2012 with mixed results, adding 61,000 net subscribers in the quarter as prepaid and wholesale customer additions offset a net loss of 515,000 postpaid subscriber losses, which continues to be the No. 4 carrier's greatest weakness. However, T-Mobile is looking ahead to its merger with MetroPCS and getting Apple's iPhone as it remakes itself this year.
Sprint Nextel, in the midst of extricating itself from its legacy iDEN Nextel business, posted a net subscriber loss of 337,000 wireless customers in the fourth quarter. The carrier also reduced its LTE buildout plans for 2013.
Spanish cell phone subscribers are cancelling their handset subscriptions as the economic crisis gripping the country worsens. CMT, the country's telecoms regulator, said that 242,000 net mobile connections were dropped in September, the eighth consecutive monthly decline in Spain.
T-Mobile USA reported a net gain in subscribers for the third quarter, as its prepaid additions outweighed continued losses in postpaid subscribers. The carrier suffered from the launch of Apple's iPhone 5 in the quarter, and it remains the only Tier 1 U.S. operator that does not sell the device.