AT&T’s fourth-quarter revenue was up, with much of the buoyancy provided by the launch of the iPhone 3G, but the company still reported lower overall earnings.
The expansion of U-verse continues to be modest, by the standards of other pay-TV providers. Nonetheless, its growth is accelerating. The company reported a fourth-quarter net increase of 264,000, U-verse’s best quarterly gain to date, up from 232,000 in the immediately preceding third quarter.
AT&T now claims more than 1 million U-verse customers, out of 17 million living units passed. Ninety percent of AT&T U-verse TV subscribers also take U-verse broadband.
The company also added 8,000 satellite customers. The company has a total of nearly 2.2 million satellite subscribers, through relationships with both EchoStar and Dish Network.
AT&T is now combining wireline and wireless broadband subscribers, counting those with 3G LaptopConnect cards. With this count, AT&T said broadband subscribers increased by 357,000 in the fourth quarter to reach 16.3 million in service – up 1.5 million, or 10.3 percent, over the past year.
Like Verizon, which reported yesterday (story here), AT&T is trying to navigate a transition from wired to wireless, and the path is not always obvious, and also not without obstacles – notably the recession.
The company reported a 2.1 million fourth-quarter net gain in wireless subscribers to reach 77 million; that total is up 7 million over the prior year. AT&T activated 4.3 million iPhone 3G devices in the second half of 2008, with fewer than half – 1.9 million – in the fourth quarter. Approximately 40 percent of iPhone activations were for customers new to AT&T, however. iPhone 3G subscribers also continue to represent ARPU 1.6 times higher and lower churn than AT&T’s postpaid subscriber average.
Underscoring the value of data services, AT&T reported 51.2 percent growth in wireless data revenue. The company said its data service revenue growth reflected rapid adoption of wireless integrated devices and increased usage of wireless Internet access, messaging and related services. AT&T’s wireless integrated devices in service more than doubled over the past year.
Fourth-quarter revenue was $31.1 billion, up 2.4 percent versus results in the year-earlier quarter. Net income was $2.4 billion, compared with $3.1 billion a year ago. Full-year revenues totaled $124 billion; net income was $12.9 billion.
“Despite the economic environment, we grew revenues in 2008, and I expect 2009 will be another year of overall revenue growth and solid progress for our company,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and chief executive officer.
Separately, AT&T Texas today announced the availability of AT&T U-verse Voice in parts of the Houston area.