A look at telecom-industry subscriber reports

Here is a summary of reports for selected telecommunications companies and what they reveal about their own and the industry’s prospects:

Jan. 4: Leap Wireless International Inc., the parent of the Cricket service, says it added about 175,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, roughly in line with analyst expectations. Leap will issue its full quarterly report in about a month.

Jan. 5: MetroPCS Communications Inc., the nation’s fifth-largest cellphone company, says it had added a net 197,410 subscribers in the fourth quarter, below analyst expectations. Its fourth-quarter net additions were down by a third from the previous year’s 297,726, mainly because existing subscribers left at higher rates. MetroPCS will issue its full quarterly report in about a month.

Jan. 24: Verizon Communications Inc.’s wireless unit added 1.2 million subscribers on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. It was the second-best result in the last two years, further solidifying the company’s position as the industry leader, with 87.4 million phones and other devices on contract-based plans, and 108.7 million total. Verizon activated 4.3 million iPhones.

Jan. 26: AT&T Inc. gained a net 717,000 subscribers on contract plans in the quarter. That was the best result all year, but didn’t match Verizon’s 1.2 million. AT&T has been lagging Verizon in this important measure for more than a year. The results also show that AT&T is still the home of the iPhone, despite loss of exclusivity in the U.S. It activated 7.6 million iPhones in the latest quarter, accounting for one out of every five iPhones sold globally.

Wednesday: Sprint Nextel Corp. reports a rare increase in the number of subscribers on contract-based plans, which are more lucrative than contract-free alternatives. It gained a net 161,000 such subscribers in the quarter. That was helped by Sprint’s ability to join AT&T and Verizon in selling the iPhone. It activated 1.8 million iPhones in the quarter, far fewer than its rivals.

Coming up:

Feb. 15: CenturyLink Inc.

Feb. 16: Leap Wireless (quarterly earnings)

Feb. 22: Windstream Corp.

Feb. 23: Deutsche Telekom AG, parent of T-Mobile USA, Frontier Communications Inc., MetroPCS (quarterly earnings)

Unknown: Telephone Data and Systems Inc. (owner of US Cellular and TDS Telecom).


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