AT&T Lags in Fourth Quarter of 2015

Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint Post Similar Share Gains, With Varying Retention, Switching

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) today released analysis of the results from its research on US mobile phone carriers for the calendar quarter that ended December 31, 2015. This analysis features findings about consumer trends in mobile phone activations from October-December, 2015 for AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), Sprint (S), and T-Mobile (TMUS).

CIRP finds that among major mobile phone companies, Verizon, T-Mobile (including MetroPCS) and Sprint (including Boost Mobile) had similar quarters, gaining new customers to a greater extent than they lost existing customers. AT&T lost market share in the quarter with a greater percentage of customers who switched to other carriers than who switched from other carriers.

This analysis shows that among customers that activated a phone in the quarter (approximately 12% of the US market), T-Mobile grew its customer base 12%, Sprint grew its base 10%, and Verizon grew its base 9%, while AT&T saw its base decline 5%. These figures are relative to the number of new phone activators that started the quarter as their respective customers. CIRP analyzes carrier gains and losses among customers who activated a mobile phone during the quarter. Using quarterly activations as a base, CIRP measures each carrier's relative performance (Table 1).

Table 1: Customer Gains and Losses by Carrier - 2015-Q4 Phone Activators
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Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all ended up at a similar point in the quarter, but took different paths to get there. Sprint gained more customers than the other carriers, but also lost more customers. T-Mobile experienced its highest retention rate in the quarter with 89%. Verizon fell in-between Sprint and T-Mobile in terms of loyalty and gains from other carriers. AT&T had a retention rate of 88%, almost as high as T-Mobile, but gained a smaller percentage of customers from other carriers than the others.

Regional and pre-paid carriers continue to lose significant ground to the top four. The retention rate of 65% in the quarter is far below the 81-89% for the others. The only group where they experience any competitive gains are in first-time phone owners, which of course are a very small subset of phone activations.

CIRP bases its findings on a survey of 500 US subjects, from January 1-7, 2016, that activated a new or used phone in the October-December 2015 period. For additional information, please contact CIRP.