It’s been a quiet summer. In summer 2020, carriers were dealing with closed stores amid a pandemic while Sprint was absorbed into T-Mobile. This summer has been much quieter. Apart from some drama over whether Verizon and/or T-Mobile will join AT&T in making its best deals available even with upgrades, things have been slow. Carrier reps are telling our analysts that phone sales are soft.
But there are changes ahead, including an iPhone launch.
Like any other year, there will be a fall iPhone launch. The upcoming iPhone variants are not expected to be much different from the iPhone 12 variants. However, sales could get a tailwind from the new offer model of “best deals for all.” AT&T has gotten positive results from this and seems content with this way of doing business. Verizon spent June and most of July with such an offer, and T-Mobile has a new offer that provides the iPhone 12 at $0/month even with upgrades, assuming qualifying trade-in.
Dish Network launch
I have my popcorn at the ready for the Dish Network launch. So many questions, but to me, the biggest one is: what will Dish do for retail? All three national carriers are modestly reducing their store counts, but the reality is that the carriers have more than 19,000 postpaid stores in operation, with tens of thousands of experienced reps. The cable companies are opening stores and have more than 1,000 stores in operation.
There are clues about Dish’s retail future in the changes afoot at Boost Mobile. I recently told Fierce Wireless that Boost Mobile stores are increasingly like flea markets, selling much more than just phones. This varies by store, but in various cases, we are seeing phone repairs, international payments, DraftKings wagering, telehealth, Sling trials, Xfinity Prepaid Internet sales, and sales of unlocked phone. This is not a criticism. I think Dish is providing retail flexibility and in some cases, dealers are telling Wave7 Research analysts that they are able to keep some stores open by selling these other products and services.
More questions. How quickly will Dish’s network roll out, and how will it perform? What will Dish do for sales and marketing? And will Dish try to win business and public sector customers?
More cable competition
In April, Xfinity Mobile launched discounts of family unlimited plans, meaning that a family of four can now get unlimited data for $120/month, versus $160/month previously. That’s a big discount. The carrier is advertising heavily to build awareness of this, and it's likely that Charter's Spectrum Mobile will follow with something similar.
Cox has been preparing a launch, and we are likely to know more about this in the fall. Also, Optimum Mobile – formerly known as Altice Mobile – is likely to step up its efforts this fall, based on recent comments by Altice CEO Dexter Goei, as reported by FierceWireless on July 23.
The cable companies are competing in new areas. Comcast Business Mobile has been launched, and it is similar to Xfinity Mobile except that its offerings are focused on small businesses. Spectrum Mobile recently launched sales of Apple Watches.
Wireless carriers enter the home broadband market, led by T-Mobile
T-Mobile recently stated that its T-Mobile Home Internet service has 100,000 subscribers, and the carrier is projecting that it will have 500,000 subscribers by the end of 2021. Wave7 Research believes that current marketing for the effort is soft, but this is likely to change during the fall. T-Mobile’s Home Internet gateway has been on backorder. Also, sources are saying that work is being done to prepare for a sales push, while T-Mobile rolls out additional 5G capacity. To get to 500,000 subscribers, a major push will be required.
Verizon and AT&T recently spent heavily at an auction for C-band spectrum. Their rollout of this spectrum for home internet will not be substantial until 2022, but I have no doubt they will watch the T-Mobile Home Internet rollout with great interest.
More phone deliveries
Wave7 Research recently reported that Verizon this fall will launch a phone delivery and setup service. “Receive expert delivery, setup and activation right at your front door as soon as same day when you purchase a new device on Verizon.com,” per a Verizon/Asurion brochure seen recently at national retailers. Verizon and Asurion are partnering for the effort.
AT&T blazed the path with its AT&T Right to You device delivery service. The carrier reported more than 250,000 device deliveries between April and October of 2020, with the pandemic lifting deliveries. The service is done in collaboration with Enjoy, which also delivers technology devices for other companies.
Interesting fall ahead
This fall, we will see the cable companies stepping up their efforts to win wireless share, while T-Mobile leads the way in competing for home internet connections. A new national carrier will launch. And yes, device delivery and setup is a trend. Oh yeah, there’s an iPhone launch coming.
Fall is my favorite season. I’ll enjoy more than usual this year.
Jeff Moore is Principal of Wave7 Research, a wireless research firm that covers U.S. postpaid, prepaid, and smartphone competition. Jeff has 25 years of telecom industry experience, including 13 years of competitive intelligence work for Sprint. Follow him on Twitter @wave7jeff.
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceWireless staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceWireless.