Unlimited mobile data plans in the US push revenues into the red

Written by on May 26, 2017 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

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The rise of unlimited mobile data plans and intense price competition, push US Mobile data revenues into the red.

For the first time in 17 years, carriers’ quarterly revenue from US mobile data plans declined from the previous year, wireless market analyst Chetan Sharma noted in his report on results from the first three months of the year.


Key Highlights of the US Mobile Data Market Q1 2017

  • US had a rough start to 2017 with several indicators turning negative for the industry.
  • The US mobile data services revenue has seen QoQ growth for 17 straight years until Q1 2017 when it saw its first negative growth for the quarter. (Q1 is generally a down quarter but for the first time the revenue growth dipped below zero).
  • Verizon suffered its first ever decline in service revenues YoY.
  • For the first time, the net adds for connected (cellular) tablets were negative.
  • For the first time, the postpaid net-adds were negative (AT&T net-adds were impacted due to sun setting of the 2G network).
  • For the first time, cars accounted for 50% of the total net-adds for the quarter.
  • The spectrum auction ended and the ecosystem is busy finding and executing on big deals.
  • While the operators struggled to maintain growth, the overall wireless market is expected to grow 18% in 2017 thanks to the continued explosion on the 4th Wave by new digital players.
  • The 4th Wave ecosystem is expected to grow by 60% in revenues.
  • T-Mobile led in most growth metrics esp. service revenue, net-adds, postpaid net-adds, and postpaid phone net-adds.
  • In the last 12 months, T-Mobile has captured 58% of the postpaid net-adds.
  • Sprint+T-Mobile are less than 2M subs away from overtaking AT&T.
  • Unlimited price war reached its inevitable apex with Verizon buckling under market intensity and offering unlimited. It has been 7 years since all four operators offered unlimited (but limited) data pricing in the US.
  • Despite the negative service revenue growth, net-income improved 13% as operators tightened their belts and lowered their expenditures
  • Verizon continued its steady march on the IoT/Telematics front. In 2017, it will become the third global operator to pass the $1B mark in the segment.
  • Income/sub/mo recovered from last quarter with all operators showing improvement in profitability. On average, AT&T and Verizon took the bulk of the profits while T-Mobile and Sprint kept their numbers in the positive territory.
  • T-Mobile and AT&T both improved their LTV while Verizon saw its decline for the third straight quarter.
  • Overall ARPU continues to decline partly because of the device mix which is now including IoT that tend to be low ARPU albeit highly profitable subscriptions. But, the main reason of the decline is competitive intensity.
  • The mobile data consumption continues to rise. US is third behind Finland and Korea in terms of GB consumed per sub/month and first amongst nations with more 60M population. Given the unlimited availability across all operators, US could surpass Korea in usage this year.
  • The average data consumption in the US is likely to cross 6GB/mo by the end of 2017. The first 1GB took roughly 210 months. The last one just 4 months.
  • Overall, US is number one in total Zettabytes consumed on mobile networks ahead of second placed China by a distance.
  • Industry capex declined sharply by 18%, one of the sharpest decline industry has ever experienced in the US. Part of it is because all operators are mostly done with their LTE buildout.
  • T-Mobile accounted for 337% net-adds for the quarter. Yes, you read it right.
  • If we look at just the Phone Net-adds, T-Mobile pretty much cleans the table for the quarter.
  • In Q1 17, net-adds from IoT+Cars continued to lead the new additions to the ecosystem.
  • By the end of Q1 17, AT&T had almost 13M cars connected to their network, probably the most by any operator.
  • The SMS traffic has fallen off sharply. We are now at the levels when iOS and Android were just born back in the late 2000s.
  • The overall industry upgrade cycle is over 2.7 years now.
  • Apple captured 77% of the profits in Q1 17. However, the smartphone segment saw declines in both revenues and profits.
  • Apple hit $800 Billion market cap for the first time earlier this month – a first for any US company. The race for a trillion is really on. With its 10th year anniversary iPhone due this fall, the odds of the trillion milestone have increased considerably.

Chetan Sharma’s full report can be downloaded here.

This article was first published on Pricing Data Plans.

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About the Author

About the Author: Jonathon has been lurking around the Telecoms and Internet space for the last 20 years. He is now a man on a mission – that being the reformation of the Industry Analyst business. He is working with his co-conspirators on transforming the Industry Analyst world forever as an Expert with EMI. .


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