Verizon counts nearly 800K net wireless phone adds in Q4

Verizon sign MWCLA19
Verizon's Q4 postpaid phone churn rate of 0.86% is the lowest among the big four operators. (FierceWireless)

Verizon reported 790,000 net postpaid phone additions across its consumer and business segments in the latest quarter, marking the carrier’s highest fourth-quarter tally in six years.

Verizon counted 1.2 million retail postpaid net additions in Q4. On the consumer side, the carrier added 852,000 net postpaid subscribers, including 588,000 net phone additions—an increase of 12.6% year over year. For its business segment, Verizon reported 396,000 postpaid net additions, including 202,000 phone. Prepaid losses came in at 121,000, which is higher than the 90,000 loss in Q4 2018.

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Verizon recorded the lowest postpaid phone churn rate of the big four, and at 0.86% it’s the only one to come in below the 1% mark in the most recent quarter. Sprint and AT&T reported quarterly earnings earlier in the week, with respective postpaid phone churn of 2.06% and 1.07%. T-Mobile is expected to report final results in February but released preliminary Q4 earnings early this month that included 1 million postpaid phone net adds and postpaid phone churn of 1.01%.  

For the full year 2019, Verizon added 1.4 million net phone connections.

Verizon said total wireless revenue grew 3.5 % year over year to $25.3 billion in the fourth quarter, driven by a 2.7% increase in service revenue, which hit around $16.3 billion for Q4. Equipment revenues were down 0.7% to $6.7 billion. Verizon’s consumer device upgrade rate was 6.3% in the fourth quarter compared to 6.6% in the same quarter last year.

The consumer segment accounts for the lion’s share of wireless service revenues, and Verizon said a 1.9% year-over-year increase to $13.4 billion was driven by customers moving into unlimited plans and higher-priced tiers, along with a greater number of connections per account.  

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Higher wireless service revenue also helped drive total consolidated revenues of $34.8 billion, up 1.4% year over year. Net income for the quarter was $5.2 billion and consolidated adjusted EBITDA was $11.1 billion.

"Verizon delivered strong operational performance in the fourth quarter, highlighted by continued wireless customer growth in both Consumer and Business," said Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg in a statement. "In 2019, Verizon drove innovation in 5G, established a new operating structure and delivered solid financial results. We entered 2020 with great momentum as we expand our network leadership and remain focused on the customer to provide a best-in-class experience. Our 5G footprint continues to grow as we lead this era of transformational change by building these next-generation networks the right way."

The carrier said it’s on track to hit its cost savings initiative goal of $10 billion by 2021 and has achieved $5.7 billion in cash savings so far since the program started in 2018. Verizon’s capital expenditures for 2019 were $17.9 billion, which it said continued to support data traffic growth on its 4G LTE network, expansion of its 5G build, along with fiber deployments.