US Mobile Market Update – Q3 2020

After a tepid Q2 that was still smarting from the Covid onslaught, Q3 2020 rebounded with vigor and optimism. AT&T’s net-adds of 5.5M was the highest recorded in US mobile industry history by any operator in the last 35 years. As a result, the US market had its highest net-add quarter in history and increased QoQ by a remarkable 129%. In Q3, it was for the first time that any operator crossed 4M net-add threshold for connected devices and 3M for connected cars.

T-Mobile again led in the postpaid phone net-adds. Quarterly revenues across the board jumped as well with some of the strongest increases in recent times. Churn is still at the lowest levels though that is likely to change in Q4 due to the iPhone launch.

US 5G subscribers grew 60% but the overall numbers remain small compared to China. We expect Q4 to pick up substantially though the confusion around what constitutes 5G remains. In China, 5G subs are multiplying like gremlins while in Korea 4G data traffic is already in decline due to 5G traffic growth.

The combined mobile subscriber base of the cable companies crossed that of US Cellular to become the 5th largest subscriber block in the US. Dish has had a rough debut in the wireless market losing customers right due to high churn.

Last month, Verizon made a bid for Tracfone to boost its prepaid business. We are seeing the continuation of “rule of 3” play out and market settling in with three dominant players with cable providers nibbling at the edges. This new dynamic will define how 5G networks get rolled out, new applications and services get built in the coming years.

Topics covered in the research update

  • Q3 2020 US Mobile Market Highlights
  • World after Covid: Impact and Implications
  • Acceleration of Connected Intelligence
  • Historical Quarter for Net-adds
  • Competition in the restructured US Wireless Market: Tier I and II
  • 5G: Can rivals catch-up to T-Mobile?
  • Competing in the 5G Era
  • Biden Administration’s Tech Priorities
  • Huawei, OpenRAN, and the future of Infrastructure in the US
  • Global 5G Race Update
  • The Play for Edge
  • What to Expect in the Coming Months?
  • US Wireless Market Q3 2020 Analysis
    • Service Revenues
    • ARPU
    • Subscribers
    • 5G Progress
    • 4th Wave Progress
    • Connected Devices
    • Handsets


Your feedback is always welcome.

Editorial Note:

Chetan Sharma Consulting Research Papers and Quarterly Updates have long shaped the industry dialog. Based on reader feedback and demand, US Mobile Market Update is now available as part of the annual subscription service. You can send a note to to inquire about pricing.