Thursday, February 7, 2019

4Q18 T-Mobile Prepaid Recovers A Bit

T-Mobile took back net additions leadership for the quarter amid a slowdown in 2017 and 2018 from monstrous growth in 2015 and 2016.  With 135K adds, the company beats continued prepaid nemesis AT&T which posted 26K but only 13K phone net additions

Why it Matters: 

T-Mobile needed to slow the AT&T prepaid momentum a bit as it has been moving towards prepaid leadership in terms of additions since 2Q17.  Were it not for AT&T branded prepaid losses, Cricket's 240K net adds would have continued AT&T's domination.  A quarterly win is a nice reversal of 2018 fortune.

It's no secret that postpaid has better revenue upside than prepaid and in the 3Q18 earnings call, President Mike Sievert explained that their focus had been converting competitors' prepaid users to T-Mobile postpaid.   Data point: Prepaid makes up 33% of its branded base and 30% of the revenue.

Despite how the company and others in the industry have been stating that the prepaid/postpaid plan lines have blurred, T-Mobile postpaid hovers at ~$46 while its prepaid ARPU is in the mid $38 range. So Mike's argument holds water. What is unique is that in 4Q, T-Mobile admitted that its gains were from lower churn but also plan and handset promotions.  The promotions are a sharp contrast to not responding to 3Q AT&T promotions.  Will T-Mobile by Metro continue its  promotional run or is the AT&T branded prepaid losses a quarterly anomaly? Though with the 4Q win, AT&T safely won the 2018 leadership. What will '19 look like?