The stats put forth in the FCC’s 19th annual Mobile Competition Report on Friday demonstrate “vibrant competition” and “unparalleled” choice in the U.S. Wireless market, CTIA said. But not everyone in the industry agreed.
According to the report, which covers the full year 2015, the U.S. Mobile market included four major facilities-based wireless providers as well as a handful of prominent regional providers and MVNOs last year. Of these, the former group of four – which includes Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint – were all found to provide coverage to more than 90 percent of the country.
The report found that AT&T led the pack with coverage for 99.3 percent of the nation, while Verizon followed with 97.4 percent and T-Mobile and Sprint brought up the back with 94.6 percent and 92.4 percent coverage, respectively.
However, just because the carriers all have fairly similar coverage stats, doesn’t mean they’re all on the same footing. As pointed out by Competitive Carriers Association CEO Steven Berry, two of those players benefit from a concentrated market share.
According to the report, Verizon and AT&T were estimated to have 140.9 million and 128.7 million total connections at the end of 2015, more than double the 63.3 million T-Mobile connections or 58.6 million Sprint connections. Those connection figures also dwarfed those for the largest regional carrier, U.S. Cellular, which had just 4.9 million connections and NTELOS, which recorded only 306,000 connections.
Based on service revenues, the FCC report found Verizon held about 38.1 percent of the wireless market share in 2015, while AT&T held around 32.4 percent. Sprint and T-Mobile were nearly tied with 14 percent and 13.5 percent of the market share, respectively, while U.S. Cellular and NTELOS remained far behind in the rearview mirror with 1.8 percent and .2 percent of the market share, respectively.
“It’s true that the mobile market continues to evolve as consumers demand more wireless services,” Berry said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the Report affirms CCA’s analysis that the mobile marketplace cannot be considered effectively competitive as a result of concentrated market share, and a duopoly that continues to dominate service revenue and the number of connections and devices. As a result, competitive carriers, especially those serving rural and remotes parts of the country, are a more important part of the ecosystem, as the trend of consolidation has intensified since the last Report.”
In order to help smaller carriers better balance the industry, Berry urged the FCC to “continue to enact policies that facilitate competitive opportunities,” including prioritizing access to spectrum resources and enacting Universal Service Fund and Business Data Services reform.