Wireless Connections Rise as Verizon Tops AT&T
Smartphone offerings fueled connection growth for a number of wireless providers in 2010. Overall wireless connections grew 10% YoY from 1Q10 to 1Q11, with the number of adds increasing each quarter.
Verizon (NYSE:VZ) overtook AT&T (NYSE:T) as the leading wireless provider in 1Q11, elevated by the February release of the Verizon iPhone. Verizon added 11.2m customers YoY; nearly 10m of which were added in the first quarter. Not far behind, AT&T added its 10.5m customers more steadily from 1Q10 to 1Q11, reflecting the same 12.1% annual growth rate as Verizon.
MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) grew its connection base 9% in 1Q11 and nearly 22% YoY—the result of low-priced Android smartphone offerings and the introduction of its 4G service plans. MetroPCS added 0.73m customers in 1Q11—a quarterly record for the provider— and decreased its churn rate 60 basis points.
T-Mobile aside, which lost nearly 100k customers in 1Q11 and 78k for the year, the companies that shed connections during 2010 and in 1Q11 were the smaller wireless providers—Alaska Communications (Nasdaq:ALSK), Cincinnati Bell (NYSE:CBB), and NTELOS (Nasdaq:NTLS). CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) exited its wireless reseller program altogether in mid-2010, though it will soon start reselling Verizon Wireless services to its customers.