Verizon loses wireless customers for first time

Posted April 21, 2017

This marks the first time Verizon has ever recorded a net loss in customer subscriptions at the end of a quarter, an ominous sign for a telco that has made wireless the focal point of its business plan.

Verizon, the once-unstoppable cellphone leader in the USA, lost key wireless customers for the first time, even as it brought back unlimited data plans to counter smaller rivals.

More Verizon customers used the unlimited plan to reduce their bills - moving from expensive data plans to the cheaper unlimited one - than customers chose to pay up.

According to the company, revenue dropped from $32.17 billion in the same period previous year to $29.81 billion, missing analysts' estimates of $30.77 billion.

Total consolidated operating revenues in first-quarter 2017 were $29.8 billion, a 7.3 percent decrease compared with first-quarter 2016.

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As growth in the wireless industry began to slow, wireless carriers gave away tablets to juice subscriber metrics.

The profits Verizon Communications Inc. plunged 20% in Q1 as it lost its wireless customers.

Those customer losses are despite Verizon's relaunch of unlimited data plans. But once the new plans became available, they helped blunt those losses by bringing in about 110,000 new subscribers, Verizon said. This in turn affected its financials - the company experienced a decline of 5.1% in its wireless business revenue. Verizon gained 209,000 post-paid phone customers in the period and AT&T lost 1.2 million.

In February, Verizon announced that it would offer an unlimited data plan for the first time in more than five years.

Shares of Verizon (VZ, Tech30) fell almost 1.5% on the news. Verizon blamed the decline on a drop in revenue received from overages, the cost of promoting the business, and a decline in the number of postpaid customers.

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Capital expenditures totalled $3.1 billion in first-quarter 2017, as Verizon carried on spending on its network.

The company has also explored bigger transactions, including with Charter Communications Inc., The Wall Street Journal has reported, though executives have recently signaled the two sides are far apart.

Shares dropped 49 cents, or 1 percent, to $48.45 in afternoon trading Thursday. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research called for earnings of 98 cents per share. The telecom company said it added a net of 35,000 Fios internet connections, missing quarterly estimates, and it lost a net of 13,000 Fios video connections for the period.

On Thursday, Chief Financial Officer Matthew Ellis clarified the comments, saying that while the company would consider deals that are in the interest of shareholders, it is confident in its assets. Verizon's 2017 effective tax rate should fall within a range of 34 to 36 percent, the company said, which would exclude any impacts from the Trump administration's potential tax reform.

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