An AT&T store.
An AT&T store. (Handout photo courtesy of AT&T, Graphic by The Desk)

AT&T beat Wall Street analysts’ expectations on Wednesday by revealing that its postpaid wireless business added 656,000 lines in its last financial quarter.

The figure was higher than the 644,000 lines expected by a consensus of Wall Street analysts, suggesting the wireless market is showing signs of health despite economic uncertainty.

The period spanned the retail holiday season, where wireless service providers use aggressive promotions that combine discounts, free devices and other perks to convince account holders to start a new line of service or add lines to an existing account.

This week, Verizon said it added 217,000 postpaid lines in its last fiscal quarter; T-Mobile, which reports results in early February, previously said it added more than 927,000 lines during the same period, according to preliminary holiday sales results released earlier this month. (T-Mobile has given customers the ability to add free service lines to their accounts, even if they are not actively using them; some customers on Reddit say they have several free lines that are inactive on their accounts. , simply because T-Mobile offered to them.)

For cellphone companies, the growth of every postpaid business suggests consumers are returning to pre-pandemic spending levels on wireless lines and related services.

“Last year, we saw the normalization of payment cycles return to pre-pandemic levels in terms of collection speed,” AT&T Chief Financial Officer Pascal Desrochest said on a conference call with AT&T on Wednesday. investors and journalists. In other words, customers pay their bills on time, instead of delaying payments due to tighter budgets.

This is particularly impressive, given that cellphone companies have increased some charges for customers over the past few years. T-Mobile – which, again, could count a lot of free lines in its total net line additions during the holiday quarter – has adjusted its late fees for late account holders, with customers now paying 7 $ each time they miss a payment by its due date. AT&T raised fees on some legacy wireless plans — a move the company said could lead to higher churn, though it suspected most customers would simply upgrade to another level of service. Verizon has traditionally had some of the highest per-line charges in the industry.

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