Verizon, the once-unstoppable cellphone leader in the U.S., lost key wireless customers for the first time, even as it brought back unlimited data plans to counter smaller rivals.
In the first three months of the year, Verizon lost 307,000 wireless subscribers who are billed each month, the more lucrative kind of wireless customer. MoffettNathanson Research says it's the first-ever lost in that category, which covers phones, tablets, smartwatches and other connections. For cellphones alone, Verizon lost 289,000 customers. Verizon said it would have lost even more customers if it hadn't launched the unlimited plan.
Total wireless revenue fell 5 percent to $20.9 billion, because of fewer customers and less money coming from the fees Verizon charges when customers go over their data limits. Unlimited plans don't have those fees.
Growth in the wireless subscribers has slowed down now that most Americans have a cellphone. Instead, companies have been poaching customers from each other with lower prices and offers to pay people to switch.