Count the consumer wireless industry as among the legions of sectors being transformed amid the pandemic.
With consumers locked at home amid the recessionary environment, aggressive price promotion by cable operators with MVNO-based mobile services grew their customer bases by 547,000 users in the first quarter. This was at a time when the incumbent wireless carriers saw their subscriber bases shrink 1.3% year over year. It was the worst customer growth quarter for the retail wireless industry since 2014.
According to numbers assembled by MoffettNathanson, Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA accounted for nearly 130% of wireless customer additions in Q1.
The cable trio now have more than 3.7 million wireless customers combined.
Like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, the cable operators have found themselves hindered by the closure of retail touch points. But the cable companies have managed to keep growing with aggressive price promotions, including a $20-per-line campaign instituted recently by Altice USA.
“Given the levels of economic hardship that have accompanied the lockdowns, one can reasonably imagine that these kinds of hyper-aggressive pricing plans won’t have much trouble breaking through to capture market share,” MoffettNathanson principal analyst Craig Moffett noted.
The analyst believes these mobile industry trends will be even more pronounced in the second quarter.
As we headed into a COVID-19 environment, our broad expectations for the carriers were they would see record-low activity levels (lower gross additions, lower upgrade rates and lower churn) as retail stores closed down and people began to stay home, with the brunt of the impact being felt in Q2 2020,” he added … “But it is also the case that cable seems to be using the crisis to push even harder for subscriber gains.”