Wednesday, April 29, 2009

USA: Verizon Wireless grew faster than AT&T in mobile data despite absence of iPhone

[light reading] VZW outpaces AT&T in data growth despite having no iconic Apple device to drive sales

AT&T may have been able to claim 1.6 million iPhone activations in the first quarter, but Verizon still emerged the winner in the mobile data race, bolstering its data revenues through a diverse blend of devices and data plans despite recessionary pressure and the diluting effects of its Alltel acquisition.

In a first quarter where Verizon added 1.3 million new wireless subscribers and saw substantial gains in its FiOS residential fiber business, the wireless unit also managed to hold out against cost-saving trends in the market, which see customers downgrading their plans and businesses cutting their data services. Verizon emerged as the leading US operator in every key wireless data metric, including overall data revenue, average data spend per customer, and data's percentage of overall service revenue. And Verizon accomplished it without a single iconic device driving sales.

Instead Verizon's data growth was spread among a wide variety of smartphones and PDAs, said Verizon chief operating officer Denny Strigl during Verizon's first-quarter earnings call. The main area of weakness for data services came from enterprises, many of which canceled broadband PC card plans as they cut their staff and costs. In part due to those business customer losses, VZW's churn rate jumped from 1.19% to 1.47% year-over-year, but Strigl said Verizon had more success in holding onto its consumer data subscribers as well as adding new ones. Strigl said smartphones and PDAs now account for 41% of all new direct device sales, and Verizon now has 19.3 million integrated or 'smart' devices on its 3G network. Those devices bring in significant revenue: about $100 a month for a BlackBerry. Furthermore, Verizon hasn't suffered too much from economic pressures forcing subscribers to cancel or downgrade their data services, Strigl said.

Verizon: no iPhone, no problem

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