US Carriers, Hardware Sales See Large, Positive YoY Comps in Q2 2021

Riding on the 5G wave, increasing vaccination rates and improving consumer sentiment, the second quarter numbers for 2021 are expected to be robust for the US carriers and their equipment sales.

T-Mobile: With 300 million Americans covered by its low-band 600MHz spectrum and another 150 million by its mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum, T-Mobile continues to own early 5G bragging rights. By the end of 2023, the carrier expects to have over 300 million covered by its mid-band 5G. Medium-term, T-Mobile will lead the US 5G rollout race.

This 5G lead has helped T-Mobile continue to dominate the net add race, something we think will continue in Q2. Free Netflix, 55+ promos and other ‘un-carrier’ moves continue to keep churn in check. T-Mobile has also done a formidable job transitioning subscribers from the Sprint network to the T-Mobile network — over 60% of Sprint subscriber traffic has now shifted to the T-Mobile network. The integration cost savings have also been above expectations. The carrier announced an expected $7.5 billion of P&L run rate savings, 25% higher than the original projection at the time the acquisition went through. Metro by T-Mobile also continues to see strong subscriber growth, particularly in rural areas. The partnership with Walmart will help. Finally, new push into fixed wireless access could add incremental revenues and help brand momentum. This is probably not meaningful until 2022-2023, but T-Mobile’s goal is to have 8 million fixed wireless subs by the end of 2025.

AT&T is in the process of unloading some big-ticket media, which will help the carrier focus on 5G rollouts, building its subscriber base, adding new 5G services, and growing broadband. During the quarter, we see AT&T winning the port war against Verizon. Its ‘same pricing for all’ campaign to upgrade its base has continued on TV and other media. It is not the only carrier doing this now, but it remains the loudest.

Equipment revenues were up 45% YoY in Q1 2021 and we expect to see similar comps in Q2 2021. Bestseller devices during the quarter were the iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12, and iPhone 11. AT&T won its share of iPhone and premium Android subscribers in Q2.

On the prepaid side, AT&T’s Cricket Wireless has surpassed 13 million subscribers and continues to grow in rural and Hispanic regions.  The Samsung Galaxy A01 and Moto G Power were top sellers within prepaid.

Verizon matched AT&T’s promos for upgraders and switchers, upgraders being the key. This helped the quarter and especially June sales. We expect very low churn for Verizon and potentially some better B2B device spending.

The near-term focus for Verizon is closing its acquisition of Tracfone. Verizon has been a distant third behind T-Mobile and AT&T within prepaid with only about 4 million subscribers—about 5x smaller than T-Mobile and AT&T. To get the deal over the line, Verizon has recently made promises to keep low-end service costs frozen for three years and will continue to support government programs such as Lifeline.

US Cellular may have been challenged within postpaid, but its renewed focus on the prepaid, business, and government segments will likely help the quarter. There have been limited retail changes, but a more focused approach on digital/online sales is helping, maybe not in terms of overall subscribers but in margins. Counterpoint churn data shows AT&T stole the most subscribers from US Cellular during the quarter.

Return of the low-end of the market: COVID-19 disproportionately affected low-end volumes. While prepaid is seeing some mixed signals, we expect solid results from Metro by T-Mobile and Cricket Wireless. Boost is an exception, and we expect net add losses here. Mint Mobile, Visible and Consumer Cellular are adding to competition with their niche appeal. Tracfone had a poor quarter losing 549,000 subscribers — it noted some prepaid to postpaid migration as vaccinations progressed and consumer confidence improved.

Device shortages are affecting prepaid, especially the low inventory of Samsung A-series, which has been hurt by both component shortages and the COVID-19 spike in Vietnam, where much of the OEM’s manufacturing is done.

Compared to Q2 2020, this year’s Q2 is a strong rebound quarter. 5G sell-through is clearly over 50% of total sales, and the second half of the year will see US carriers continuing to push to upgrade the base to unlimited 5G service plans.


Jeff has 25+ years experience in technology research, business development, competitive intelligence, and business management. Prior to joining Counterpoint Research, Jeff held various research & product development roles at Microsoft, Nokia, Roth Capital Partners, and Gartner. Jeff is a member of many telecom industry organizations including Colorado Wireless Association,, CommNexus, and is a regular speaker at major telecom industry events. He was a 4x NCAA all-American in tennis and is a 12-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.