AT&T is steaming ahead at full speed with its plan to merge with media company Time Warner. That’s probably a good thing for the company’s bottom line, as the wireless business is losing customers at speed.
According to an analyst note from Cowen and Company Equity Research, seen by Fierce Wireless, AT&T is leading other carriers in customers departing every quarter. ““When asking postpaid subscribers that have been with their carrier (less than) two years which carrier did they previously have, the top answer for current Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon respondents was ‘previously AT&T,’ whereas in previous surveys it’s been more mixed,” the note reportedly said.
That makes sense when you look at AT&T’s numbers. The company lost 268,000 subscribers during Q3 2016, and a Wells Fargo analyst predicted that the company lost another 220,000 in the fourth quarter. AT&T claims the subscriber losses are due to a new, more focused retentions system, whereby they focus more on lucrative customers, and allow those on cheaper plans to defect to other cell carriers.
That’s what you’d expect a company that’s slowly fading to say, but it does also make a small amount of sense given AT&T’s recent direction. It’s focusing more on high-value customers who buy cable, TV and wireless service in a bundle, or those who at least subscribe to DirecTV Now.
The strategy adopted by T-Mobile, which is probably stealing most of AT&T’s customers, is nearly the complete opposite. For T-Mobile, it’s all about selling the single semi-unlimited data plan it now offers and getting multiple lines onto one account.
Time is going to tell which strategy ultimately makes more money, but history is more in favor of T-Mobile’s direction here. The economics of wireless leans in favor of the more customers, the better. The additional cost of letting one more customer use your giant national infrastructure is low, so the more customers you have, the easier it is to grow your network — and the data shows that the one thing people really care about is good service.