In the first three months of the year, Verizon lost 307,000 wireless subscribers who are billed each month, the more lucrative kind of wireless customer.
Verizon, the once-unstoppable cellphone leader in the US, lost key wireless customers for the first time, even as it brought back unlimited data plans to counter smaller rivals.
Competition from Sprint - as well as T-Mobile - appears to be taking its toll on Verizon. The cheap unlimited T-Mobile One plan that it rolled out previous year has seen T-Mobile poach customers from the other three big mobile carriers.
Verizon's total turning revenues, including all the recorded wireline services, were $29.8 billion in the first quarter.
Churn, or customer defections, among wireless retail customers who pay bills on a monthly basis, increased to 1.15 percent of total wireless subscribers, compared with the average analyst estimate of 1.03 percent, according to FactSet.
Wall Street analysts were predicting that Verizon had added more than 200,000 postpaid subscribers in the quarter.
Verizon unexpectedly brought back unlimited data plans in February, which it had stopped selling in 2011, seeking to blunt the appeal of similar offers from T-Mobile and Sprint. The question now is, "What is the reason behind this loss of customers and the unlimited data plan?" In a recent federal auction of wireless airwaves, T-Mobile emerged as a major beneficiary, spending $8 billion to acquire rights to radio spectrum it will use to expand its mobile internet capacity.
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Verizon's retail postpaid connections base grew 1.2 percent year over year to 108.5 million, and retail prepaid connections grew 0.5 percent to 5.4 million.
To counter this apparent fall Verizon was quick to point out that its recently launched Unlimited Data Plan "has added 109,000 postpaid connections".
Shares of Verizon (VZ, Tech30) fell almost 1.5% on the news.
"Our first-quarter results again demonstrated that customers value a high-quality network experience", said Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam. "The launch of Verizon Unlimited positively changed the trajectory of customer additions in the quarter", the company said.
The stock closed down more than 1 percent on Thursday. Verizon's main competitor AT&T Inc. plans to diversify its business through an $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. and has already purchased satellite TV company DirecTV. Excluding those one-time items, Visa had an adjusted profit $2.1 billion, or 86 cents per share, which beat analysts' expectations.
In first-quarter 2017, Verizon added a net of 35,000 Fios Internet connections and lost a net of 13,000 Fios Video connections. Chief Financial Officer Matthew Ellis says the company will consider deals that are in the interest of shareholders.