A look at telecom-industry subscriber reports

AP News
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Posted: Aug 01, 2012 8:55 AM

Telecommunications companies have begun releasing their earnings reports for the latest quarter. Here is a summary of reports for selected telecommunications companies and what they reveal about their own and the industry's prospects.

— July 19: Verizon Communications Inc. says its wireless unit gained a net 1.2 million subscribers — a strong result in an industry where subscriber gains have tapered off now that nearly everyone has a cellphone. Of the new subscribers, 888,000 were on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. Verizon Wireless has 94.2 million retail subscribers. The profit margin at Verizon Wireless was the highest ever, as average monthly fees for contract-signing subscribers rose 3.7 percent to $56.13. Verizon is benefiting from the growing popularity of smartphones, which come with data fees.

— July 24: AT&T Inc. says it saw declining smartphone sales, leading to the best profitability ever in its wireless arm as it saved on phone subsidies. It activated 5.1 million smartphones in its latest quarter, down from 5.5 million a year ago. Much of the decline came because AT&T subscribers are holding on to their phones longer. AT&T added a net 320,000 subscribers on contract-based plans in the quarter. However, more than half of the new subscribers were tablet users, who pay less than smartphone users.

— July 26: Sprint Nextel Corp. reports it was successful in persuading smartphone subscribers to pay up for "unlimited data" service, and its service revenue zoomed, beating estimates. Sprint activated 1.5 million iPhones in the quarter, the same number as in the first quarter. By contrast, AT&T and Verizon saw a drop in iPhone activations as the excitement around the latest model, the iPhone 4S, cooled. Sprint is the only one of the four national wireless carriers that still offers unlimited data service, though it offers relatively slow data speeds.

MetroPCS Communications Inc., a provider of contract-free service, says it lost about 186,000 subscribers to end the quarter at 9.3 million.

— Tuesday: Frontier Communications Corp. ended the quarter with 3.1 million residential lines, down about 67,000 from the previous quarter.

— Wednesday: Comcast Corp. says it added 158,000 phone customers to end the quarter with 9.7 million.

Coming up:

— Friday: U.S. Cellular Corp. (unit of Telephone Data and Systems Inc.)

— Aug. 6: Leap Wireless International Inc.

— Aug. 8: CenturyLink Inc.

— Aug. 9: T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG; Windstream Corp.