By: Jesse Cryderman
As third-quarter reports rolled in, earnings among tier 1 CSPs in the U.S. proved a mixed bag, but one fact became clear: shared data plans have provided a big boost to bottom lines. AT&T added
200,000 fewer subs than expected but reported the strongest wireless ARPU growth in six quarters. And though wireless service revenues as a whole crept up less than 5 percent, the company reported
a spike in mobile data revenue of more than 18 percent, or a full $1 billion more than in the third quarter of last year. Meanwhile, Verizon handily beat estimates by adding 1.5 million new
subscribers and reported a jump in service revenues and record margins.
On the other hand, Sprintâ€™s loss widened to $767 million in the third quarter, and the beleaguered carrier bled 450,000 postpaid subscribers. Some analysts predicted that the new pricing plans
pitched by AT&T and Verizon would drive customers toward unlimited or value options like Sprint and T-Mobileâ€™s, but that wasnâ€™t the case. Judging by the numbers, the new shared data plans are a
cash cow for the big two.
Verizon expands quad play with MSOs
Last month Informa Telecoms & Media polled more than 500 executives from global service providers, and reported that the respondents identified partnerships as a key driver for growth in
2013. If so, Verizon has positioned itself well: Big Red has actively courted the top MSOs in the U.S. over the past year in order to market and sell bundled services in numerous markets. Last
month Verizon announced an expansion of its relationship with Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable; in each instance customers will be able to purchase wired and wireless services from Verizon
and the MSO partner from a single point of sale while taking advantage of incentives like prepaid Visa cards ranging in value from $100 to $400.
â€śIt is an exciting time as we continue to bring together the strong brand recognition that we have in our markets for video, voice and Internet services along with the national brand identity that
Verizon Wireless has for its 4G LTE wireless services,â€ť said Dave Bialis, senior vice president/general manager, Cox Communications, California. â€śExpanding this arrangement to California marks the
next step in the process to bolster the value of our bundle of services and address the evolving needs of our customers.â€ť
U.S. telecom landscape in flux
As Verizon and AT&T pull further and further ahead of their rivals and adopt similar billing plans, the mobile-operator landscape is about to change. T-Mobile and Sprint both announced
potential buyouts in October, moves that investors feel are necessary for them to remain competitive in the highly saturated U.S. mobile market. T-Mobile intends to advance its â€śchallengerâ€ť status
by merging with prepaid superstar (and VoLTE pioneer) MetroPCS. Struggling Sprint has been embraced by Japan-based SoftBank for a $19 billion acquisition. At the same time, Sprint upped its stake
in Clearwire to retain a controlling interest. Clearwire, although unable to make money and quickly running out of cash, has the deepest LTE spectrum reserves in the U.S., making it a valuable
If we learned anything from the failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, it is that nothing is certain when it comes to the regulatory response. Quite expectedly, AT&T is the loudest voice of dissent
when it comes to the proposed T-Mobile and Sprint buyouts, arguing against the two deals. The battle is really over spectrum, as mobile data is a cash cow, particularly mobile data over LTE, which
will only grow with time. AT&T vice president Brad Burns argued that the spectrum holdings SoftBank would command would give it