Amid competition, Verizon loses key customers for first time

Notably, Verizon reported a net loss of 307,000 retail postpaid connections - those that pay for service on a monthly contract - including 289,000 phone losses.

Verizon, the once-unstoppable cellphone leader in the USA, lost key wireless customers for the first time, even as it brought back unlimited data plans to counter smaller rivals.

It's only thanks to Verizon's launch of unlimited plans that the bloodshed isn't worse. During the same period a year ago, it had gained 640,000 subscribers.

Total consolidated operating revenues in first-quarter 2017 were $29.8 billion, a 7.3 percent decrease compared with first-quarter 2016.

The launch of Verizon Unlimited positively changed the trajectory of customer additions in the quarter. But once the new plans became available, they helped blunt those losses by bringing in about 110,000 new subscribers, Verizon said. In a recent federal auction of wireless airwaves, T-Mobile emerged as a major beneficiary, spending $8 billion to acquire rights to radio spectrum it will use to expand its mobile internet capacity. Since Verizon Unlimited was first offered to consumers, the carrier has added 109,000 postpaid subscribers. Much of that came at the expense of AT&T, which lost 1.2 million previous year. Verizon's churn increased from 1.03 to 1.15 percent of all customers in the first quarter, a strong sign that the race-to-the-bottom between the carriers is starting to see results. That's insane. I can't even tell you the last time Verizon lost phone customers.

"Our first-quarter results again demonstrated that customers value a high-quality network experience", said Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam.

Meanwhile, Verizon's main competitor AT&T Inc T.N plans to diversify its business through an $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc TWX.N , which would give it control of cable TV channels like HBO and other coveted media assets. Hoping to make money by mining and selling customer data, Verizon has moved to purchase AOL and Yahoo for billions of dollars.

Shares of Verizon fell 53 cents, or 1 percent, to close Thursday at $48.41. "We're executing on strategies to capture future growth and create long-term shareholder value".

The company has also explored bigger transactions, including with Charter Communications Inc., The Wall Street Journal has reported, though executives have recently signaled the two sides are far apart. The telecom company said it added a net of 35,000 Fios internet connections, missing quarterly estimates, and it lost a net of 13,000 Fios video connections for the period.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of 96 cents on $30.5 billion in revenue. During the first quarter, the amount of traffic on Verizon's LTE network rose 57% year-over-year.

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