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Q3 2016 by the numbers, T-Mobile is top dog

October 28, 2016

 

The third quarter of 2016 was another positive one US mobile operators.
 

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all gained both total customers and postpaid customers last quarter. But only T-Mobile and Sprint gained high-margin postpaid phone customers. 

 

  • T-Mobile added 969,000 postpaid, 684,000 prepaid, and 317,000 wholesale customers for a total gain of 1.97 million customers. That compares with gains of 1.88 million in Q2 2016 and 2.31 million a year ago in Q3 2015.

  • AT&T added 212,000 postpaid, 304,000 prepaid, and 1.3 million connected device subscribers, but lost 315,000 reseller customers for a total gain of 1.53 million subscribers vs gains of 1.36 million in Q2 2016 and 2.51 million in Q3 2015. 

  • Sprint added 344,000 postpaid and 823,000 wholesale customers but lost 427,000 prepaid users for a total gain of 740,000 customers vs gains of 377,000 in Q2 2016 and 1.06 million in Q3 2015.

  • Verizon added 442,000 postpaid connections and 83,000 prepaid customers for a total gain of 525,000 vs gains of 585,000 in Q2 2016 and 1.21 million in Q3 2015.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile were profitable last quarter. Sprint posted its ninth quarterly loss in a row.

  • Verizon made a profit of $3.75 billion last quarter compared with $831 million in Q2 2016 and 4.17 billion a year ago in Q3 2015.

  • AT&T made $3.32 billion last quarter compared with $3.41 billion in Q2 2016 and $2.99 billion in Q3 2015.

  • T-Mobile made $136 million last quarter compared with $228 million in Q2 2016 and $368 million in Q3 2015.

  • Sprint lost $142 million compared with losses of $302 million in Q2 2016 and $585 million in Q3 2015.

Here's how the operators ranked by total subscribers at the end of the quarter:

  • Verizon 142.5 million*

  • AT&T 133 million

  • T-Mobile 69.4 million

  • Sprint 60.2 million

*Estimated. Verizon doesn't report wholesale and M2M customer numbers. Verizon reported 113.7 million retail connections at the end of Q3, 2016. I estimate that Verizon has approximately 142.5 million total subscribers, including MVNO, wholesale and M2M connections.

América Móvil's Tracfone subsidiary added 1.2 million subscribers last quarter. But that includes 1.36 million Walmart Family Mobile and 326,000 GoSmart customers that TracFone acquired from T-Mobile. Without the acquisition of those two T-Mobile brands, TracFone would have lost approximately 500,000 customers last quarter. That compares with a gain of 110,000 customers last quarter and 13,000 a year ago in Q3, 2015

TracFone's revenue was up 6.4% quarter over quarter and 9.7% year over year. TracFone operates the Straight Talk, NET10, Tracfone, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Total Wireless, Telcel America, Walmart Family Mobile, GoSmart and SafeLink Wireless MVNO brands in the US.

Postpaid phone customers are generally much more profitable than tablet, connected device, prepaid and wholesale customers. Industry watchers put a lot of emphasis on postpaid phone customer gains and loses. Only T-Mobile and Sprint gained postpaid phone subscribers this last quarter.

  • T-Mobile added 851,000 postpaid phone customers 

  • Sprint added 347,000 

  • Verizon lost 36,000

  • AT&T lost 268,000 

The number of branded prepaid customers increased by 144 thousand, the ninth quarterly increase in a row. The gains came from T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, as Sprint lost prepaid customers.

Tracking prepaid growth number this quarter is complicated by T-Mobile's sale of Walmart Family Mobile and GoSmart to TracFone during the period.

T-Mobile reported that it gained 684,000 prepaid subscribers in the quarter but its branded prepaid customer count only grew by 358,000 quarter over quarter. That's because 326,000 GoSmart prepaid customers were sold to TracFone. The Walmart Family Mobile customers are postpaid so they do not affect T-Mobile's prepaid numbers.

TracFone added 1.2 million subscribers last quarter but all that growth  comes TracFone's acquisition of Walmart Family Mobile and GoSmart.

  • T-Mobile added 684,000 prepaid subscribers

  • AT&T added 304,000

  • Verizon added 83,000

  • Sprint lost 427,000

  • TracFone added 1.2 million subscribers due to its acquisition of 1.7 million Walmart Family Mobile and GoSmart subscribers. Without the acquisition, TracFone would have lost about 500,000 customers.

Total prepaid customers by carrier as of the end of last quarter were:

  • Tracfone 25.15 million (plus 1.36 million postpaid Walmart Family Mobile customers)

  • T-Mobile 19.27 million

  • Sprint 13.55 million

  • AT&T 13.04 million

  • Verizon 5.46 million

In summary, it was another great quarter for T-Mobile, which once again lead the ...

 

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