New Wireless Subscribers Down Sharply at AT&T
NEW YORK (AP) - When Verizon Wireless started selling the iPhone, AT&T sounded a defiant note, saying that its customers would remain loyal. A year later, it’s clear that the Verizon iPhone has crimped AT&T’s stride.
Verizon, the country’s largest wireless carrier, had little problem attracting new customers before it started selling the iPhone. In fact, it was the only one that managed to keep up with AT&T’s iPhone-fueled growth.
But with the iPhone in its arsenal, the country’s biggest wireless company is getting bigger, while No. 2 AT&T’s growth has slowed precipitously.
On Tuesday, AT&T revealed that it essentially gained no phone subscribers on contract-based plans in the first quarter. That’s only happened once before: A year ago, when Verizon launched its version of the iPhone.
Contract-based plans are by far the most lucrative for a phone company, and the number of new customers is an important measure of growth.
AT&T gained a net 187,000 customers on contract-based plans in the January to March period, but these were almost all tablet users, brought in by the launch of the new iPad in March. Even on contract-based plans, tablet customers pay between $15 and $50 per month, whereas smartphone customers often pay more than $100.
By contrast, Verizon last week reported adding 501,000 subscribers on contract-based plans.