PrePaid Strong, Says IDC

IDGlogo.jpgDuring the first quarter
of 2009 (1Q09), the top 10 carriers in the United States added just under 3.5
million retail net subscribers. Out of these retail net subscribers, 75% were
prepaid users. Over 20 million gross retail subscribers were added for the top
10 carriers during the quarter. The total market for the quarter closed at just
over 274 million retail wireless subscribers in the United States. Data revenue
now accounts for 25% of total retail service revenue.

prepaid carriers
in the U.S. are rolling out very competitive price options for
according to Richard Murphy, IDC's Wireless and Mobile Communication
analyst. "Wireless users are looking closely at their plan options
during this very
tough economic cycle. If wireless users continue to look to save money
monthly bills, prepaid offerings could become a very serious option."

Vendor Highlights

  • In terms of retail postpaid
    net additions, Verizon Wireless closed the quarter at 1 million net additions,
    while AT&T finished with 875,000.
  • On the prepaid side,
    MetroPCS finished with 687,000 net additions and TracFone ended the quarter
    with 567,000 net additions. Leap Wireless also finished with strong net adds
    for the quarter, totaling 492,000.

Market Outlook

  • Prepaid subscribers make up
    19.2% of the subscribers for the top 10 carriers. By the end of 1Q10, IDC
    expects the total wireless retail carriers to have reached almost 286 million
    retail subscribers. IDC projects gross numbers to continue to remain close to
    20 million users during 2Q09. Prepaid carriers should continue to show strong
    results in the second quarter of 2009.
  • Currently, there are 274 million
    total wireless subscribers in the United States.

"With the wireless
subscriber market reaching a point of saturation in the United States, carriers
are becoming more aware of movement among customers," Murphy added. "Wireless carriers must not just focus on
bringing new customers in the door; they must also pay attention to current
customers. Those carriers that are able
to avoid customer churn will stay competitive."

The IDC report, 1Q Wireless Gross
Subscriber Additions: Prepaid Carriers Continue to Grow
(Doc #218581),
tracks gross wireless subscribers on a quarterly cycle with a breakdown by
percentage of the prepaid/postpaid markets. In addition, the IDC report, U.S.
Mobile Data Services Qview, 1Q09
(forthcoming ), provides the U.S. market
and vendor share results for the top 10 wireless carriers in the United States
in over 20 top-line categories. including a Rest of Market category. This
report also drills down into the data services that are used by consumers.