Verizon Communications Inc. lost regular wireless subscribers for the first time in a year, a troubling sign as the company hustles to catch up with rivals AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. in a race for 5G customers.

The largest U.S. wireless carrier posted a loss of 170,000 monthly wireless subscribers in the first quarter. Analysts predicted 82,100 new customers. Earnings of US$1.31 a share, excluding some items, topped analysts’ expectation of US$1.29. Revenue of US$32.9 billion was ahead of the estimate of US$32.47 billion.

​Key Insights

  • Verizon spent more than US$52 billion on midband airwaves last month and plans to have these new 5G signals available to a third of the nation early next year.
  • While AT&T and T-Mobile have been running free-phone promotions to keep and add customers, Verizon has been more measured in its offers. The difference can be measured in subscriber growth, where Verizon has lagged behind the pack.
  • Verizon continues to see partnerships like its ones with Inc. and Corning Inc. as the best path to bring advanced 5G services from development to actual sales.

Market Reaction

  • Verizon shares were up 0.2 per cent to US$58.50 at 9:38 a.m. in New York. The stock is up 2.8 per cent from year-ago levels, while AT&T is about flat and T-Mobile is up 50 per cent.