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IDC: Cellular Prepaid, Data Gain In Q4

3/12/2010 03:06:10 PM Eastern

Framingham, Mass. - Sixty-five percent of net retail subscribers
acquired by the top U.S. carriers in the fourth quarter were prepaid
subscribers, and all carriers' data revenues grew in the quarter to account for
27 percent of all revenues, International Data
Corporation
(IDC) reported.

In the quarter, the top carriers added slightly fewer than 4.2
million net retail subscribers, 65 percent of whom were prepaid subscribers,
the research company said. That percentage is up among the top carriers from
the year ago's 49 percent, IDC told TWICE.

Also during the quarter, the top carriers added more than 22
million gross retail subscribers, or new subscribers before subscriber
deactivations are factored in. Retail subscribers are defined as subscribers
acquired directly by the carriers and not by mobile virtual network operators
(MVNOs) that resell their service.

The top carriers in the study were AT&T, Sprint/Boost/Virgin,
Leap Wireless, MetroPCS, T-Mobile, TracFone and U.S. Cellular.

Industrywide, combined data revenues for all U.S. carriers grew to $11.8 billion
dollars in the fourth quarter, up 23 percent from a year-ago $9.6 billion, IDC
told TWICE. The company expects data to continue driving carrier revenues
growth, with industrywide data revenues exceeding $50 billion in 2010.
"With the larger carriers trying to get more consumers to spend more of
their wireless dollars on data, look for data revenue to continue to grow in
the future," analyst Richard Murphy said. "Carriers are attempting to
get as many of their customers as possible to use smartphones. And since most
smartphones have data requirements, data revenue will increase."
 On the prepaid topic, Murphy said the
market "will remain very competitive," noting that "you have five carriers that
are competing for every subscriber in that arena." Underscoring prepaid's
growth, IDC said prepaid carrier TracFone 
added more than 1.2 million net new subscribers in the fourth quarter
and that Verizon Wireless added more than 1.2 million net new subscribers,
prepaid and postpaid combined. AT&T gained 852,000 net new subs during the
quarter.