Market heavyweights AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, Apple stung by competition in 2014: Year in Review

By Phil Goldstein

For years at investor conferences I have heard executives from wireless carriers, especially those from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), say that they think the industry is immensely competitive. In years past, I have generally regarded that as pabulum, something they had to say as a matter of course, especially when those two companies so thoroughly dominated the industry.

This year though, competition roared across the marketplace, and I bet that executives at Verizon, AT&T and every other carrier felt it.

Pricing competition started in earnest in January and has not let up throughout the year. In fact, it got supercharged after merger talks between Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) broke down, and Sprint replaced CEO Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure. Although financial analysts have been fretting over what all of the price competition will mean for carriers' long-term margins and investment, I think it's a great development for consumers and that the worries are largely overblown.

Meanwhile, pricing competition is also heating up in the smartphone market, as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Mozilla and their device partners hunt for new smartphone customers in emerging markets. Average selling prices are going down, while low-cost providers like Xiaomi are rising. Although Samsung Electronics and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) are secure in their perches as the No. 1 and No. 2 smartphone players, respectively, they are facing more pressure than ever before.

Back here in the U.S., the staggering $44 billion (and counting) AWS-3 spectrum auction has laid bare carriers' desire for additional network capacity. The billions being spent in the auction underscore the challenges facing smaller carriers, many of whom have recently decided they do not have the resources to continue to compete with the Tier 1 operators--and have abandoned the wireless business completely as a result.

Competition heated up in 2014 on a number of fronts this year, and it seems set to intensify further in 2015. That will surely lead to further disruption and hopefully more innovation from carriers and device makers.

Have a look at our Year in Review stories below, covering all the top trends from 2014 in detail. And definitely let us know what you think in the comments. And don't forget to check out the FierceWireless:Europe 2014 Year in Review, FierceTelecom 2014 Year in Review, FierceOnlineVideo 2014 Year in Review, and the FierceCable 2014 Year in Review. --Phil

P.S. FierceWireless will be on a publishing break for the holidays. We will be updating the website with any breaking news, but will be back in your inbox Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

Market heavyweights AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, Apple stung by competition in 2014: Year in Review