For years, Verizon has been able to continue to add customers, even as carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint have offered comparable plans at rock bottom prices with free phone deals and other gimmicks. Verizon could always fall back on its network being the best, even if their plan selection wasn’t or their prices were much higher than others. Something seems to have changed in 2017, though, as the company just reported what may be their worst quarter ever, a quarter that was actually on pace to be even worse if not for the introduction of Verizon Unlimited.
According to today’s Q1 earnings release, Verizon lost 289,000 postpaid phone customers, which are the really, really important type. So not only did they not gain any, they lost close to 300,000 of their most important customers. That’s insane. I can’t even tell you the last time Verizon lost phone customers. In Q1 of 2016 (just a year ago), they gained 452,000.
What makes this news even crazier is the fact that they had to openly admit that it was on track to be even worse had they not introduced Verizon Unlimited, their new unlimited plan. In mid-February, just before Verizon Unlimited launched, they were actually down 398,000 phone customers for the quarter, but managed to then add 109,000. Holy sh*t!
It’s a bit like Verizon’s bubble finally popped to start the year. As I mentioned, they have continued to ignore (or be really late in matching) industry trends as the #1 carrier because they always just assumed they’d be fine or that they network and experience was too good for people to look elsewhere. From carry-over data to unlimited, Verizon just didn’t think they’d have to adapt.
Their previous CFO, my boy Fran “ShamWow” Shammo, said just before he retired that people like you and I don’t actually need unlimited data. As it turns out, that doesn’t even matter now. But one thing is certain, Verizon sure as hell does.