US Mobile Market Update – Q4 2020

5G Industry Transition – We have worked on every single G transition and as we move into the 5G cycle, we continue to stay heavily engaged with players across the ecosystem and around the globe from very advanced markets to just emerging. Chetan Sharma Consulting is involved in several 5G strategic projects across three continents, across the value chain, so, have a front row seat into what’s coming. We have penned 14 research papers on 5G already – most in-depth in the industry, many of them industry firsts, and have several in the works for the coming months based on what we are learning from our work on the ground.

Summary of US Mobile Market Q4 2020

Despite the pandemic, the US wireless industry had one of the best years in its history, adding the most net-adds in the last 15 years on a yearly basis. The industry generated the highest revenue and service revenue in the history of the US wireless market.

Operators had one of the best years in churn management. In fact, least number of consumers churned in a year in at least a decade.

After a tepid first half of 2020 that was still smarting from the Covid onslaught, the second half rebounded with vigor and optimism. AT&T’s net-adds of 5.6M was the highest recorded in US mobile industry history by any operator in the last 35 years. Buoyed by connected devices, AT&T crossed the 5M net-add threshold and 3M for the connected cars for the second straight quarter. In fact, it added the greatest number of net-adds in a calendar year by any US operator, ever. Verizon on the other hand had its weakest two straight years in its history.

T-Mobile again led in the postpaid phone net-adds. Quarterly revenues across the board increased as well.

US 5G subscribers grew over 200% but the overall numbers remain small compared to China. We expect 2021 to pick up substantially though the confusion around what constitutes 5G remains. In China, 5G subs are multiplying like gremlins while in Korea 5G traffic has already surpassed the 4G traffic in the country.

Dish continues to have a tough entry into the market as it builds out its 5G network. The Cable companies continue to outpace tier 2 operators in net-adds and revenue growth and we expect them to collectively surpass Dish and US Cellular in mobile revenues later this year.

If you want to understand the competitive dynamics in the US market, follow the mid-band spectrum. The massive phase one C-band auction concluded, and it netted over $80 Billion in proceeds making it the highest spectrum auction in US history. It only emphasizes the importance of the mid-band spectrum to 5G growth and competition.

T-Mobile is entering a network upgrade cycle in the strongest position in its history. As we start to come out of the pandemic in late Q2, its inherent competitive advantage will start to show in the network measurement datasets nationwide.

Topics covered in the research update.

  • Q4 2020 US Mobile Market Highlights
  • Impact of Covid on the Wireless Industry
  • Acceleration of Connected Intelligence
  • Historical Quarter for Net-adds
  • The contours of competition in the US wireless market in 2021
  • 5G: Separating signal from the noise
  • Private Networks Opportunity
  • Biden Administration’s Tech Priorities
  • Huawei, OpenRAN, and the future of Infrastructure in the US
  • Global 5G Race Update
  • What to Expect in the Coming Months?
  • US Wireless Market Q4 2020 Analysis
    • Service Revenues
    • ARPU
    • Subscribers
    • 5G Progress
    • 4th Wave Progress
    • Connected Devices
    • Handsets

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