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Second Quarter 2017 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator

The second quarter of 2017 was a good one for US mobile operators. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all gained total customers last quarter and all made a profit too, even perennial loser Sprint.

Subscriber growth:
  • AT&T gained 127,000 postpaid, 267,000 prepaid and 2.26 million connected device customers but lost 369,000 reseller customers for a total gain of 2.28 million domestic subscribers vs gains of 2.08 million in Q1 2017 and 1.36 million a year ago in Q2 2016.
  • T-Mobile added 817,000 postpaid, 94,000 prepaid customers and 422,000 wholesale customers for a total gain of 1.3 million customers. That compares with gains of 1.14 million in Q1 2017 and 1.88 million in Q2 2016.
  • Verizon added 614,000 postpaid connections and 19,000 prepaid customers for a total gain of 633,000 vs gains of 324,000 in Q1 2017 and 585,000 in Q2 2016.
  • Sprint reported adding 35,000 prepaid and 65,000 wholesale customers but lost 39,000 postpaid customers (mostly tablets) for a total gain of 61,000 customers vs gains of 368,000 in Q1 2017 and 602,000 million in Q2 2016.
Verizon, AT&T Sprint and T-Mobile were all profitable last quarter. For Sprint it was the first profitable quarter in three years.
  • Verizon made a profit of $4.36 billion last quarter compared with $3.5 billion in Q1 2017 and 702 million a year ago in Q2 2016.
  • AT&T made $3.9 billion last quarter compared with $3.5 billion in Q1 2017 and $3.4 billion in Q2 2016.
  • T-Mobile made $581 million last quarter compared with $698 million in Q1 2017 and $479 million in Q2 2016.
  • Sprint earned $206 million compared with losses of $283 million in Q1 2017 and $554 million in Q2 2016.
Here's how the operators ranked by total subscribers at the end of the quarter:
  • Verizon 143.6 million*
  • AT&T 136.5 million
  • T-Mobile 69.6 million
  • Sprint 53.7 million
*Estimated. Verizon doesn't report wholesale customer numbers. Verizon reported 114.5 million retail connections at the end of Q2, 2017. I estimate that Verizon has approximately 143.6 million total subscribers, including wholesale connections.

América Móvil's Tracfone subsidiary lost 636,000 subscribers last quarter. That compares with a loss of 1.3 million in Q1, 2017 and a gain of 110,000 in Q2, 2016. TracFone blamed the subscriber loss on increased competition and seasonal effects. TracFone's revenue of $1.93 billion this quarter was down 2.5% compared with Q1, 2017 but up 8.8% compared with the second quarter of last 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. T-Mobile once again lead the pack and added the most postpaid phone additions for the 13th consecutive quarter in a row. Only AT&T lost postpaid phone subscribers this last quarter.
  • T-Mobile added 786,000 postpaid phone customers
  • Verizon added 385,000
  • Sprint added 88,000
  • AT&T lost 89,000
The number of branded prepaid customers decreased by 221 thousand, the second consecutive quarterly decrease. All the loss came from TracFone. These are troubled times for MVNOs like TracFone as the MNOs continue to aggressively court the prepaid market.
  • AT&T added 267,000 prepaid subscribers
  • T-Mobile added 94,000
  • Sprint added 35,000
  • Verizon gained 19,000
  • TracFone lost 636,000
Total prepaid customers by carrier as of the end of last quarter were:
  • Tracfone 24.1 million
  • T-Mobile 20.3 million
  • AT&T 14.19 million
  • Sprint 8.7 million
  • Verizon 5.45 million
In a bit of accounting legerdemain, Sprint and T-Mobile announced this quarter that they are no longer including wholesale or retail Lifeline customers in their customer counts. Both indicated that tighter enforcement of eligibility criteria for Lifetime program, which provides government subsidized free phones and service to low income individuals, have resulted in Lifeline subscriber losses.

T-Mobile said that it had 4.4 million Lifeline customers, all wholesale, at the end of Q1, 2017. Sprint reported 2.8 million wholesale Lifeline customers and 3.3 million Assurance Wireless customers at the end of Q1. It's not clear how many Lifeline customers Sprint and T-Mobile have left but the fact that they are no longer including Lifeline in their totals suggests that they have experienced significant losses.

In summary, All four national carriers were profitable last quarter and reported subscriber growth. However their were signs that growth is slowing. AT&T's growth was almost all in low revenue connected devices. T-Mobile's prepaid additions were way down from previous quarters. Sprint and T-Mobile excluded Lifeline customer loses from their subscriber growth numbers, artificially inflating them. TracFone lost customers and its revenue declined last quarter.

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

Related posts:
First Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Second Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Third Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Fourth Quarter 2015 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
First Quarter 2016 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Second Quarter 2016 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Third Quarter 2016 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
Fourth Quarter 2016 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator
First Quarter 2017 Prepaid Mobile Subscriber Numbers By Operator


Comment Page :
  1. So did ATT include Lifeline losses in its wholesale/reseller customer counts?

  2. I believe so. AT&T did not say anything about excluding Lifeline. AT&T lost 369,000 wholesale customers last quarte, some of thoese are probably Lifeline.

  3. Tracfone revenue of 1.93 million? It should be Billion.

  4. Looking past the legerdemain in millions:

    AT&T 2.28 gain

    Verizon 0.63 gain

    T-Mobile 3.10 loss

    Sprint 6.04 loss


    1. It looks like you are assuming that Sprint and T-Mobile lost all their Lifeline customers which is obviously not true.

    2. Of course, but until the numbers are disclosed I do not want to downplay the potential damage.

  5. Dennis, I am hoping you can shed light on a problem I am having. About 10 days ago, for no apparent reason, I am unable to log into my yahoo mail from my phone. I get the notice of a "Temporary Error 16." I tried clearing the cache but this did nothing. Any thoughts? The phone is a ZTE 431.

    1. You win the most off-topic comment ever award!

      Feature phone browsers are very primitive and don't support modern JavaScript based sites. Yahoo probably updated their webmail site in a way that made it incompatible with your browser.

  6. Great job getting/compiling the data, Dennis. My only question is: how did T-Mobile and Verizon add nearly 1.5 million postpaid subs between the two of them when Sprint lost only 39k (which were mostly tablet users?) I doubt tablets are making a comeback and I think phone user base is pretty much tapped, so what devices are these postpaid gains?

    1. Kids getting old enough that they have phones on their parents' plans maybe?

      That's one possible source, anyway.

    2. Sure that could be one source of growth, but kids' lines are a constant addition/subtraction, so +1.5 million for a quarter, across two carriers seems like a lot to me.

      I wonder if T-Mobile is counting Digits activations too?

    3. AT&T added 156,000 postpaid tablets and computing devices.

  7. @Dennis
    Sorry, I'm confused. How can AT&T gain 127,000 postpaid customers and lose 89,000 postpaid customers in the same quarter as this article seems to say?

    1. AT&T lost 89,000 postpaid PHONE subscribers but added other types of postpaid lines including tablets and hotspots to end up with a total gain of 127,000 postpaid subscribers.

    2. @ Dennis, is there a way to find out the losses each TF Inc subsidiary lost in customers? The numbers don't really tell the whole story when they have:
      Straight Talk, NET10, Tracfone, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Total Wireless, Telcel America, Walmart Family Mobile, GoSmart and SafeLink Wireless.

      Were those losses equal across the board or were only a few subs responsible for the losses?

    3. No, America Movil does not break out TracFone subscribers (total, lost or gained) by TracFone brand. In past quarters where they lost subscribers they have blamed Safelink, TracFone and Net10 but not this time.

      I've seen multiple complaints that TracFone bungled the Walmart Family Mobile acquisition, cutting off customers service, changing plans, double billing, etc. so they probably lost some WFM subscribers.

    4. @dennis tracking made a stupid move that is comming to bite them back. They lowered all the dealers commission and they made it impossible to deal with them.

      Of course there is "competition" the dealers dumped them. Hopefully many more will do the same.

  8. So overall Verizon is doing better?

    1. Since ATT's 2.26 million is easily more than three times Verizon's 633 thousand, I believe this is a clear victory for AT$T.

    2. My bad, I meant including current subscribers, not just for the quarter. I see in the graph Verizon is still on top. Thank you anyway.

  9. Dennis, sorry, I know it's off-topic. Didn't find a better thread to ask this question.

    Also, if it makes a difference. It's a ZTE 432, not a 431. That being said, is there a way to upgrade the browser?

    1. There's no way to upgrade the built in browser. It might be possible to install a third party Java ME browser like Opera Mini and UC Browser but I doubt that those would with Yahoo either. To do mobile email these days you really need a smartphone.

  10. Thanks Dennis but I wasn't using mobile email to access my Yahoo account. I was using the phone's browser.

    1. By "mobile email" I just meant doing email on a mobile phone by any means, including using a mobile browser to access Yahoo webmail.

  11. Ah, okay, thanks Dennis. Are there any other third party browsers you'd suggest besides the above two?

    1. Just get a smartphone and use the app.

      Problem solved.

    2. Dennis, this really shows the heart you have to help this poor feature phone person out, appreciate that!! It's a rarity these days. To the feature phone guy: step #1- get a smartphone. Step #2- search the app store, and you'll find hundreds of browsers. Step #3 (alternative) - use an email app.

  12. You could try switching to Gmail or any other email provider until you get yourself a smartphone.

  13. Looking at Tracfone, its no wonder Comcast and Charter are uninterested in Sprint. They can be successful just reselling service on Verizon.

  14. Dennis, thank you for your thoughts however just getting a smartphone is not an option. I'll try those two browsers and take any other browser suggestions you might have.

  15. Dennis, I tried Opera Mini and I'm happy to report it is functional. Thanks again.

  16. Hello,

    Are you missing a comma here or a zero? Is the At&T gained in prepaid 267,000 or 26,700?
    AT&T gained 127,000 postpaid, 267,00 prepaid and 2.26 million

    1. A zero was missing. AT&T gained 267,000 prepaid customers.

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