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Second Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator

The second quarter of 2015 was a big one for T-Mobile USA. It returned to profitability and unequivocally passed Sprint to became the 3rd largest US operator. 

All four US national operators gained subscribers last quarter: 
  • AT&T added 410,000 postpaid, 333,000 prepaid and 1.45 million connected device subscribers, but lost 95,000 reseller customers for a total gain of 2.09 million subscribers vs gains of 1.22 million in Q1 2015 and 633,000 in Q2 2014. 
  • T-Mobile added 1 million postpaid, 178,000 prepaid, and 919,000 MVNO customers and lost 33,000 M2M customers for a total gain of 2.07 million customers. That compares with gains of 1.82 million in Q1 2015 and 1.47 million a year ago in Q2 2014. 
  • Verizon added 1.134 postpaid but lost 126,000 prepaid customers for a total gain of 1.01 million vs gains of 377,000 in Q1 2015 and 1.43 million in Q1 2014. 
  • Sprint added 310,000 postpaid and 731,000 wholesale customers but lost 366,000 prepaid users for a total gain of 675,000 customers vs gains of 1.2 million in Q1 2015 and a loss of 220,000 in Q2 2014. 
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile were profitable last quarter and Sprint posted a relatively small loss.
  • Verizon made a profit of $4.35 billion last quarter compared with $4.34 billion in Q1 2015 and $4.32 billion in Q2 2014.
  • AT&T made $3.04 billion last quarter compared with $3.2 billion in Q1 2015 and $3.55 billion in Q2 2014.
  • T-Mobile made $361 million last quarter compared with a loss of $63 million in Q1 2015 a profit of $237 million in Q2 2014.
  • Sprint lost $20 million compared a loss of $224 million in Q1 2015 and a profit of $23 million in Q2 2014.
T-Mobile passed Sprint this quarter to move into 3rd place in overall in number of subscribers. Here's how the operators ranked by total subscribers at the end of the quarter:
  • Verizon 129 million*
  • AT&T 123.9 million
  • T-Mobile 58.91 million
  • Sprint 56.81 million
*Estimated. Verizon doesn't report wholesale and M2M customer numbers. Verizon reported 109.6 retail connections at the end of Q2, 2015. Industry analysts estimate that Verizon has approximately 129 million total subscribers, including MVNO, wholesale and M2M connections.

The number of branded prepaid customers increased for the fourth quarter in a row, but just barely. The gains came from T-Mobile and AT&T as Verizon and Sprint lost prepaid customers. Sprint's loss is especially surprising as it came in spite of aggressive promotions offering free phones and half price plans to customers who switched to Sprint's Boost Mobile. Sprint's prepaid churn was up, suggesting it's having trouble keeping its prepaid customers happy. AT&T's prepaid gains likely came mostly from its heavily promoted and aggressively priced Cricket brand.
  • AT&T added 333,000 prepaid subscribers
  • T-Mobile added 178,000
  • Verizon lost 126,000
  • Sprint lost 366,000
América Móvil's Tracfone subsidiary, which operates the Straight Talk, NET10, Tracfone, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Total Wireless, Telcel America and SafeLink Wireless MVNO brands, added only 25 thousand subscribers last quarter. But that's better than last quarter when TracFone lost 318,000 subscribers and Q2 of 2014 where TracFone gained just 8,000 customers. TracFone's slow growth reflects the growing price pressure that MVNOs are facing from the big four operators, which are increasing using prepaid to fight for market share.

Total prepaid customers by carrier as of the end of last quarter were:
  • Tracfone 25.7 million
  • T-Mobile 16.57 million
  • Sprint 15.34 million
  • AT&T 10.44 million
  • Verizon 5.82 million
Going forward I expect to see continued prepaid price cutting as the operators fight to keep posting positive overall gains.

Sources: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, América Móvil

Second Quarter 2014 Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Third Quarter 2014 Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Fourth Quarter 2014 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
First Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator


Comment Page :
  1. Thanks Dennis. Do you think the Cricket gains will continue during the current quarter?

    1. I don't see why not. AT&T seems willing to do whatever it needs to do to sustain Cricket's growth. The recent addition of Mexican, and soon Canadian, roaming increases Cricket's appeal to the 30 million US residents who visit those countries every year. It's also something that CDMA based Sprint can't easily match as CDMA is being shut down in Canada and AT&T's acquisition of Iusacel, Mexico's only CDMA operator, puts CDMAs future in Mexico in doubt too.

    2. The family plans on Cricket are the best in the business... I mean $100 for 5 lines, taxes included? No one else can even touch that.

    3. I had Cricket and loved it, but I unfortunately had to give them up when I moved to southern Wisconsin, as I had zero service at home. Republic works great here, but the new plans are a no-go once the grandfathering is done next year. Either AT&T puts a tower up by my place or Boost will be the next option unless something better comes out by next year. If Verizon did what AT&T does with GoPhone and the soft cap, I'd consider going back, but they're evil and they won't...

  2. Wow! Dennis... You make it look easy... always a sign of hard work ... thanks

  3. The problem with Sprint is that it's still perceived as a damaged brand with a shitty network.

    They also waste time/energy/marketing operating 3 subsidiary brands at the same time instead of consolidating them into a single stronger inter-network competitor (comparable to T-Mo's Metro). This does nothing but maintain the fracturing of their brand.

    Don't even get me started on their new SprintShacks. It was a complete waste that only enforces the brand's negative connotations by associating it with an obsolete retail outlet from yestercentury. They could've just invested in improving/expanding their network instead of a redundant brick and mortar sales presence.

    Even though it might be home to the cheapest prepaid pricing and possibly the current best MVNO, complete with lightning fast LTE to boot (YMMV depending on location), the fact is that Sprint still isn't making all the necessary changes it needs to in order to trump at least T-Mo.

    Then again, it doesn't really matter to me what Big S does as long as R+ keeps delivering solid service at a rock bottom price.

    1. "The problem with Sprint is that it's still perceived as a damaged brand with a shitty network."

      It always seemed better than T-Mobile, anyway. But now it has fallen behind.

    2. I am confirming that the problem with Sprint IS that it has a shitty network in the Detroit Metro area. As much as I would love to subscribe to the "Big S", I won't because of the lack of coverage. When all of my Sprint-subscribing-and-saving-a-boatload-of-money friends don't have a signal, I alway do. I'm paying a little more with my Verizon MVNO, but the coverage trade-off is well worth the cost difference.

    3. Same here: They live in SoCal and are always racing around the freeways, eternally on "California Time" (late), trying to coordinate meetings with clients. Sprint MVNO Virgin's lack of coverage and drop-outs were driving them nuts. I set them up to port-out to Cricket and Virgin's "Customer Retention Squad" called them up, offering free phones and everything else except the one thing they needed: better coverage! What a difference when they switched to AT&T coverage!

      Now, if I could just corral their bickering asses into a Group Save, they'd love it even more...

  4. No surprises here but would like to see Verizon get in the game (more competive) I really need their coverage.

    1. Sad but true...

    2. The best options for Verizon coverage right now are Total Wireless $35 for 2.5GB, Straight Talk $45 for 5GB, Net10 with CallingMart discounts and for PayGo TracFone has the best rollover data prices on any network. Total Wireless lacks LTE right now but that will probably change in the coming months. Net10 has a $40 plan with 1.5GB of LTE data and that price goes down with CallingMart discounts. That's probably the cheapest plan around with Verizon coverage and a decent amount of LTE data. At least until Total gets LTE. Net10 also offers 2 lines for $75 with 1.5GB of LTE data on each line. For light use TracFone is hard to beat and unused data never expires.

  5. Dennis, are the various MVNO's - those not owned by the carriers themselves - included in the subscriber tally? I'm thinking those like RingPlus, Ting, Harbor, h2o, Walmart Family, Straight Talk etc. Are those MVNO customers included in the "parent" carrier's numbers? If so, any idea how Google Fi customers are counted?

    1. At the end of the 2nd quarter, 2015:
      AT&T has 13.5 million "reseller" lines which I believe are mostly MVMO as "connected devices" is a separate category for M2M
      Sprint has 6.62 "wholesale and affiliate" customers which includes M2M so maybe 4 million MVNO lines
      T-Mobile lists 13 million MVNO customers.
      Verizon doesn't report its number of MVNO customers at all. I estimate they have around 10-15 million, mostly with the TracFone companies

  6. To respond to the Anonymous comment above: MVNO's are counted as Prepaid. Harbor Mobile is currently being counted as Postpaid even though for billing purposes it is mostly Prepaid with exception of international calling making and receiving while in the USA, roaming international and 411 calls.

    1. That's incorrect. The "prepaid" numbers in quarterly reports refer to the MNO's own prepaid brands like T-Mobile Prepaid, MetroPCS, GoSmart, AT&T Prepaid, Cricket, Sprint Prepaid, Boost Virgin and Verizon Prepaid.

      True MVNOs like TracFone, H2O, PTel are reported as wholesale, reseller or MVNO customers and are not included in the postpaid or prepaid totals.

      Business resellers like Harbor probably are included in postpaid totals.

  7. Verizon should create a prepaid brand like Cricket or MetroPCS so they can discount without hurting their brand.

    Sprint needs family plans and a logical BYOD policy for their prepaid brands.

    ATT could stop T-Mobile's growth with more aggressive marketing. ATT can afford a price war but T-Mobile can't. It might make more sense for AT&T to buy Deutsche Telecom.

    1. AT&T tried that already. Regulators didn't like the idea.

    2. I wonder if the OP meant, "...buy all of Deutsche Telecom, instead of just T-Mobile." I'm guessing the regulators would have blocked that, too, or would have made AT&T spin-off T-Mobile.

    3. Why? Verizon made $4 billion in profit without giving away the store on prepaid. Verizon has made very little commitment to prepaid and still is making the most profits.

  8. it would make much more sense for dish network or comcast to buy t-mobile.

  9. The fact that you can't swap phones within Sprint network of prepaid brands is really stupid. I also really think Virgin Mobile is a joke with their pricing and phone selection.

    I wish nothing but the worst for Sprint!

  10. I'm hoping tmobile eventually buys up us cellular

  11. Verizon is now supporting Non-Branded iPhone 6 and Nexus 6. Source credit: Phone Scoop.

  12. Verizon 3Q lost 80,000 prepaid subscribers, AT&T gained 466,000 prepaid net additions,that is the best quarterly prepaid numbers AT&T has reported in 8 years.

  13. Sprint Reports it lost 363,000 prepaid customers in Q3 2015.

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