During the first quarter of 2009 (1Q09), the top 10 carriers in the United States added just under 3.5 million retail net subscribers. Out of these retail net subscribers, 75% were prepaid users. Over 20 million gross retail subscribers were added for the top 10 carriers during the quarter. The total market for the quarter closed at just over 274 million retail wireless subscribers in the United States. Data revenue now accounts for 25% of total retail service revenue.
"The prepaid carriers in the U.S. are rolling out very competitive price options for consumers,” according to Richard Murphy, IDC’s Wireless and Mobile Communication analyst. “Wireless users are looking closely at their plan options during this very tough economic cycle. If wireless users continue to look to save money on monthly bills, prepaid offerings could become a very serious option.”
In terms of retail postpaid net additions, Verizon Wireless closed the quarter at 1 million net additions, while AT&T finished with 875,000.
On the prepaid side, MetroPCS finished with 687,000 net additions and TracFone ended the quarter with 567,000 net additions. Leap Wireless also finished with strong net adds for the quarter, totaling 492,000.
Prepaid subscribers make up 19.2% of the subscribers for the top 10 carriers. By the end of 1Q10, IDC expects the total wireless retail carriers to have reached almost 286 million retail subscribers. IDC projects gross numbers to continue to remain close to 20 million users during 2Q09. Prepaid carriers should continue to show strong results in the second quarter of 2009.
Currently, there are 274 total wireless subscribers in the United States.
“With the wireless subscriber market reaching a point of saturation in the United States, carriers are becoming more aware of movement among customers,” Murphy added. “Wireless carriers must not just focus on bringing new customers in the door; they must also pay attention to current customers. Those carriers that are able to avoid customer churn will stay competitive.”