Competition in U.S. wireless industry poised to rise: analyst

The wireless industry has seen a slowdown in competition this year. (ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

After a relatively tranquil first half of 2018, the U.S. wireless industry should soon start to get more active. At least, that’s the forecast from one Wall Street research firm.

“After a quiet 1H, competition should pick up,” wrote the analysts at Macquarie Research in a note to investors this week. “AT&T will likely leverage its new assets to offer better bundles, while T-Mobile/Sprint could offer promos to showcase their consumer-friendly nature. We expect Comcast will continue to grow its 577k sub base and Charter will enter wireless in 2H confidently (following in Comcast’s steps). Meanwhile, with the 8/1 appointment of new CEO Vestberg and the recent shutdown of Go90, Verizon could welcome a fresh approach.”

Such a situation would likely represent a reversal from this year’s initial two quarters. The firm pointed out that three of the four nationwide wireless operators have been embroiled in merger efforts—Sprint and T-Mobile inked a deal to merge, while AT&T worked to close its acquisition of Time Warner. Further, both AT&T and Verizon have each set a goal of reaching growth in wireless service revenues, a situation that likely has slowed their respective desires to offer competitive services and pricing.

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As a result of the sluggish competition in the quarter, the Macquarie Research analysts said they expect relatively unsurprising results from the nation’s wireless carriers in the second quarter. Specifically, the analysts are forecasting Verizon to report 369,000 net customer additions, while AT&T will score 91,000 net customer additions. T-Mobile, meanwhile, is predicted to report 588,000 net customer additions in the second quarter, while Sprint is expected to report 36,000.

The second quarter closed at the end of June, and the nation’s wireless carriers are generally expected to report their second-quarter results beginning later this month.

Although most wireless operators have remained relatively quiet throughout the beginning of 2018, they could increase their competitive actions in the second half of this year. Verizon is poised to gain new management, with Hans Vestberg scheduled to take over from Lowell McAdam. Meantime, T-Mobile has promised additional “uncarrier” announcements this year, while AT&T could work to further leverage the closure of its Time Warner purchase with additional offers beyond its new unlimited plans and AT&T Watch service.

Finally, the nation’s third-largest cable company, Charter Communications, recently entered the mobile industry with the quiet launch of its Spectrum Mobile MVNO service. That could spark reactions among the nation’s existing mobile players.