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Industry Insights: FCC’s Proposed Broadband Consumer Labels & 4Q23 Wireless Carriers’ Subscriber Growth

4q23 Industry Wireless Subscriber Adds

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Hello and a Belated Happy New Year!  It was great to see so many old friends at CES in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and meet other shakers and movers in our industry.  While not traditionally a wireless show, the Venetian Hotel Wireless space was very well attended both by vendors and those of us walking around eager to learn new things.  Thanks to the folks at the Federation of International Dronesoccer Association, I got to see my first drone soccer game!

Does the FCC Have Too Much Time on its Hands?

So our friends down on L Street in NW Washington DC (also known as the FCC), published in the Federal Register the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) adopting rules for a new broadband consumer label and seeking comment on further steps the FCC can take to ensure that consumers have the information they need to make informed broadband service purchasing decisions.  

The Report and Order requires broadband providers to create broadband labels that resemble the form of a nutrition label and display them at the point of sale.  Specifically, the Report and Order mandates the following:

Providers Subject to the Label Requirement – Providers that offer “broadband Internet access service plans” are required to create and display the new broadband labels.  The FCC defines “broadband Internet access service” as “a mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all internet endpoints, including any capabilities that are incidental to and enable the operation of the communications service, but excluding dial-up internet access service.” 

That statement comes from Telecommunications Law Practice, a well-respected wireless regulatory law firm in Washington DC.  PLEASE NOTE, THE FOLLOWING SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE ON THIS SUBJECT AND YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY ON HOW THIS LAW IMPACTS YOU

MVNOs that market handsets along with access to a broadband service are subject to the labeling requirement.  Service providers should pay close attention to the effective date of the new rules since it is not uncommon for the FCC Enforcement Bureau to issue citations for rule violation not long after new rules become effective in order to foster compliance” says Carl Northrop, Founding Member of Telecommunications Law Professionals PLLC. tlp.law 

Those dates for compliance start soon:

  • April 10, 2024 for providers with greater than 100,000 subscriber lines.
  • October 10, 2024 for providers with 100,000 or fewer subscriber lines.

Here is a copy of the proposed label:

FCC Broadband Label Proposal
FCC Broadband Label Proposal

I’m sure that more information will be forthcoming as carriers and MVNOs put forth additional questions and implement this throughout their sales channels.

2023 Fourth Quarter Subscriber Growth for Wireless Carriers

Meanwhile, back to the day-to-day news.  The major carriers announced Q4, 2023 earnings.  Carriers and Big Cable continued to find ways to put net adds on with T-Mobile again leading the way.

Postpaid Adds

  • T-Mobile -  934,000 WOW!!!!  That deserves some Magenta!
  • AT&T - 526,000 postpaid
  • Verizon - 318,000 postpaid
  • Xfinity Mobile - 310,000
  • Spectrum Mobile - due this week

Prepaid Subtracts

AT&T reported 132,000 prepaid phone losses, and as Linda Hardesty wrote in Fierce Wireless, "some analysts are speculating that AT&T’s and Verizon’s good postpaid phone net adds may be coming at the expense of their prepaid businesses.” Fierce Wireless also reported that Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst at New Street Research commented: “Verizon and AT&T missed prepaid expectations by a combined 337,000. It appears, based on results so far, that postpaid is cannibalizing prepaid at a faster pace than expected. This requires further investigation.” 

Meanwhile, Verizon reported 289,000 wireless retail prepaid net losses in Q4 2023. 

“The TracFone acquisition has been, to be blunt, a disaster,” wrote MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett in a report for investors.

Finally some housekeeping:

  • The Boon of WIRELESS Podcast, hosted by yours truly, starts taping next week and will begins streaming in early February.  You’ll love our first guests, household names in the wireless mobility space.  Stay tuned for details on how to stream.
  • If CES wasn’t enough fun, Atrium Unlimited will be attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 26-29. Hope to see a lot of you there.
  • Tax Time is on the horizon……are you ready?  More to come next time.

Thanks for reading.  Good Selling!

Jon



Jon Horovitz
Jon Horovitz has been in the wireless industry as a senior executive for 33+ years. He headed up sales and operations in leadership roles for McCaw Communications, AT&T Wireless, Nextel, Boost Mobile, and Sprint. He has owned an MVNO as well as assisted in the start-up of many others. In 2022, Jon was named United States Ambassador to MVNO Nation (based in London and supporting 6000+ MVNOS). His consulting company, Atrium Unlimited, LLC, advises carriers, MVNOs, investment bankers, and venture capitalists interested in joining the wireless space. Jon would love to hear from you about any consultative needs you may have.



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