US Mobile Market Update – Q4 2021

Summary of US Mobile Market Q4 2021

The US wireless industry had its most successful year in history by a big margin. 2021 produced the highest net-adds, service revenue, postpaid revenue, prepaid revenue, connected revenue, and overall revenue, ever.

The subscriptions went past 500M, only the 3rd nation after China and India to do so.

The industry had its most successful year in history and crossed $250 Billion in yearly revenues for the first time. The industry had another blockbuster quarter. The quarterly revenues were the highest ever. The competitive intensity around 5G continues to increase and the usage is going up as well.

Industry revenue grew YoY and churn stayed at record low levels. T-Mobile and AT&T again dominated postpaid net-adds. Cable companies are making measurable impact on postpaid. They have left US Cellular and Dish in rear view mirror in revenue and are likely to surpass Dish in total subs within 6 months to become the dominant tier-2 block.

Fixed wireless has emerged as a new revenue category for the industry. The mobile operators matched the cable companies in the broadband net-adds. In fact, T-Mobile was the top broadband net-adds operator accounting for 42% of share in Q4 2021. With 1.4M subs in the bag, wireless industry is looking to expand this new revenue stream.

AT&T had the best net-add year of any operator in history with bulk of the new subs coming from connected devices. However, AT&T has caught up with T-Mobile in postpaid phone net-adds after three straight quarters of coming out on top.

T-Mobile continues to dominate in postpaid net-additions with 45% share for the year. On the other hand, the #4 provider – Dish has lost more than 11% of its acquired customer base since the merger closed.

There was consequential movement in adjacent areas as we had predicted – fixed wireless, MEC, private networks, and new applications and services. T-Mobile is using its spectrum advantage to go after the low-hanging fruit of fixed wireless in certain markets while Verizon made investments in the MEC and private networks space. AT&T also continues to invest in the enterprise segment.

US picked up pace on the 5G front and went past China in percentage penetration and now has over 100M devices in the market. US has also outpaced China in 5G revenue by a significant margin. So, the “5G race” is in the eye of beholder, depending on the dimension of comparison, you can find a different winner.

In terms of actual usage, Korea by far exceeds China and US in 5G mobile data traffic. In Q4, as expected, Korea’s 5G data traffic (63%) exceeded its 4G traffic. User consumption is typically 2.5-3x whereas in the US it is still quite tepid as most of the traffic is still on 4G networks.

Topics covered in the research update.

  • Q4 2021 US Mobile Market Highlights
  • The Biggest year in the history of the industry
  • Signs of 5G Impact on ARPU and Revenues
  • Fixed wireless – Dawn of a new era?
  • Will Metaverse matter?
  • Scenarios that could unfold in US-China Tech Competition
  • US wireless market competition in 2021
  • US wireless market: Tier-2 Competition
  • Private Networks Opportunity
  • Global 5G Race Update
  • What to Expect in the Coming Months?
  • US Wireless Market Q4 2021 Analysis
    • Service Revenues
    • ARPU
    • Subscribers
    • Competition
    • 5G Progress
    • Fixed Wireless Progress
    • 4th Wave Progress
    • Connected Devices
    • Handsets

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