Sprint and T-Mobile Gaining Ground

04/22/2015 12:17 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

AT&T and Verizon Maintain Loyalty Lead

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released analysis of the results from our research on U.S. mobile phone carriers for the calendar quarter that ended March 31, 2015. This analysis features findings about consumer trends in mobile phone activations from January-March, 2015 for AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), Sprint (S), and T-Mobile (TMUS).

CIRP finds that among major mobile phone companies, T-Mobile (including MetroPCS) and Sprint (including Boost Mobile) had the best quarter, gaining new customers to a significantly greater extent than they lost existing customers.

CIRP analyzes carrier gains and losses for customers who activated a mobile phone during the quarter. Using each carrier's percent share of these customers before their new activations as a base, we measure each carrier's relative performance.

This analysis shows that among customers that activated a phone in the quarter, Sprint grew its customer base 25 percent, and T-Mobile grew its customer base 20 percent, relative to the number of customers that started the quarter as their respective customers (Chart 1).

Chart 1: Carrier Share of Phone Activators at Start and End of 2015-Q1

We look at loyalty and churn each quarter, focusing on customers who activate a phone within the quarter. Sprint started the quarter with 14 percent of the phone activators in our quarterly survey, and ended the quarter with 17 percent of them. This almost 25 percent increase in share of this quarter's phone activators suggests that their efforts to expand their customer base have started to take hold. Similarly, T-Mobile started the quarter with 19 percent of the phone activators in the sample, and ended with 22 percent, for an increase of almost 20 percent.

Change in share for the quarter consists of customers that switched to or started with a carrier, minus those that switched away from that carrier. Sprint attracted new customers equal to 50 percent of the phone-activating customers it had at the start of the quarter, while losing 29 percent of its customers that activated a phone during the quarter. Similarly, T-Mobile added new customers equal to 41 percent of the phone-activating customers it had ad the start of the quarter, and lost 27 percent of its customers that activated a phone during the quarter (Table 1).

Table 1: Customer Gains and Losses by Carrier - 2015-Q1

AT&T and Verizon continue to have the most loyal customers. Relative to their size neither attracts as high a percentage of new customers from other carriers as Sprint and T-Mobile do. Sprint and T-Mobile also attract a somewhat higher percentage of first-time phone buyers, as we would expect from carriers that offer lower-cost plans.

CIRP bases its findings on a survey of 500 US subjects, from April 1-3, 2015, that activated a new or used phone in the January-March 2015 period. For additional information, please contact CIRP.