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Mobile carriers hate not having iPhone, pay premiums to get it

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
A flurry of reports have insinuated that the larger upfront subsidies carriers pay to gain access to the iPhone are "not good for wireless carriers," with one blog claiming "carriers hate the iPhone," despite facts indicating the opposite.

The seed report behind these claims originated with CNNMoney, which ran a story today claiming "the iPhone is a nightmare for carriers," explaining that "The iPhone may be great for consumers, but takes a nasty toll on wireless carriers' bottom line."

"Nasty bottom line" visible in iPhone launch quarters

It recounted how Verizon earned margins of 46.4 percent per quarter in 2009 and 2010, which dropped to 43.7 percent when the US carrier began selling iPhones last spring and subsequently "plunged" to 42.2 percent after signing contracts for 4.2 million iPhones in final quarter of last year.

It noted Verizon's margins jumped up to 47.8 percent in the third calendar quarter, a period of delayed iPhone sales that gave the carrier a greater mix of higher margin alternative smartphones.

The report noted even greater horror for AT&T and Sprint; the former's margins dropped from 37.6 to 28.7 percent over the past year, while the latter's margins dropped from 16 percent to 9.5 percent during its iPhone launch.

Jumping to conclusions

CNNMoney writer David Goldman cited Mike McCormack, an analyst at Nomura Securities as stating, "a logical conclusion is that the iPhone is not good for wireless carriers!"

McCormack added, "when we look at the direct and indirect economics that Apple has managed to extract from the carriers, the carrier-level value destruction is quite evident."

The primary reason for this is the industry leading subsidy that Apple demands from carriers, about $450. But Apple also regularly asks for large volume sales commitments from its carrier partners and cuts into the carriers' efforts to push adware or other bundled services onto new devices, sell apps and media, and manage subscribers' phone support.

Ask the carrier, not the analyst

With all the muscle Apple is flexing in its negotiating efforts with mobile carriers, Sprint has estimated that "the cost of adding an iPhone customer is about 40% higher than the cost for the average non-iPhone customer," according to the report.

And yet Sprint's chief executive Dan Hesse said that he expects, eventually, that Apple's iPhone will be "our most-profitable device." The report also referenced an interview with Hesse from last October when the company was new to selling iPhones.

At the time, Hesse reported that the primary reason customers gave for leaving Sprint prior to October was because it had no iPhone. T-Mobile similarly reported that its lack of the iPhone was the primary culprit for its inability to attract and retain customers.

Hesse stated, "It comes down to, 'Do you want to be with them or bet against them?' Apple is arguably the best global brand in the tech space."

So rather than "hating" iPhone as a nightmare, carriers actually dream about the prospects of selling it. The upfront lower margins in launch quarters are won back over the two year terms of users' contracts.

Who pays for iPhone subsidies?

CNNMoney noted that "carriers have been gradually hiking prices," as well as canceling unlimited data plans and discontinuing older subsidy promotions like Verizon's "New Every Two" program.

"Apple isn't the only factor, of course," the report backtracks, noting that carriers are also investing billions to build out expensive LTE networks that are not yet attracting huge volumes of customers. Verizon has consistently reported having sold more iPhones than 4G LTE handsets.

Some of the infrastructure and premium iPhone subsidy costs are being passed along into the price tag of high end Android phones, which a minority of fans will buy regardless of their price. In many cases, those phones are at least $100 more than comparable iPhone models.

Those 4G Android users are also working out the bugs, preparing for a better experience once LTE chipsets are optimized and Apple beings adding the feature to its own wireless devices.

Who failed to anticipate the future revenues on contract sales?

Which brings the story back to its source: Nomura Securities. Is the firm encouraging carriers to abandon the iPhone and rely on alternative products that have less clout to demand higher subsidies for buyers? That was Verizon's strategy in 2010, but it didn't work well to attract and retain buyers or Verizon wouldn't have switched to Apple by the end of the year.

Nomura previously generated headlines in 2008 after claiming that Apple's recently launched iPhone 3G suffered reception problems related to an "immature" chipset solution from Infineon and stating it would be "unlikely that Apple can rectify the issue through software updates," suggesting a massive recall would be needed.

This wasn't the first time this had happened however; Nomura analyst Richard Windsor had also published a research note in the fall of 2007 suggesting that the original iPhone would likely suffer problems due to a faulty industrial design using “a chemical deposition to provide touch sensitivity based on heat,” and said Apple might have to recall millions of faulty units. But the iPhone didn't ever use touch sensitivity based on heat.

Keep in mind that Nomura also expects "Apple's tablet market share gains to peak around fiscal 2012-13, with Google and Microsoft 'emerging as powers in the tablet OS market.'" The firm specifically added that "despite softening demand for personal computers and netbooks, PC OEMs are proving to be in a stronger position than smartphone makers to capitalise on tablet sector growth."


[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 21
Not according to (whatever the name of that one CDMA carrier is). They said the iPhone isn't high-tech enough for them because it didn't have 4G.

The fact that I can't remember its name had better show how much of a joke they are, despite my inability to remember anything in general.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #3 of 21
Paraphrasing Wilde, there are only two tragedies in life: one is, not getting what you want; the other, .....
post #4 of 21
Sigh! Over time, my opinion of some analysts has been dropping. While some seem to get things, and actually understand what's happening, some don't. While is pretty well understood that subsidies for the iPhone are higher, it's also well understood that iPhone users have, on average, more expensive contracts, and much less churn. Churn is expensive. It costs several percent of profit loss every year for carriers.

Then there is the "get it or die" problem. If a carrier doesn't have it, and their subs lists shrink, they have lower sales, and lower profit. Since all carriers must spend billions every year on maintaining their networks and improving them, lower sales and profits makes it more difficult to come up with the capital to do so. Not doing so at at least an equal level with the big two means that a carrier falls further behind. That means more subs leave, and it enters a vicious cycle. Then, it gets bought.

This is the best thing that's happened to Sprint in a long time. We can see that T-Mobile is making some of its towers compatible with the iPhone, in the hope that Apple will allow them to get it.
post #5 of 21
Kisses on the nasty bottom line.
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Sigh! Over time, my opinion of some analysts has been dropping.

Noooo...

Quote:
it's also well understood that iPhone users have, on average, more expensive contracts, and much less churn. Churn is expensive. It costs several percent of profit loss every year for carriers.

Churn in the sense that iPhone users keep their phones longer than their 2 year contracts? Or, rather, more iPhone users keep their phones longer than their 2 year contracts than do non-iPhone users?

Quote:
Then there is the "get it or die" problem. If a carrier doesn't have it, and their subs lists shrink, they have lower sales, and lower profit. Since all carriers must spend billions every year on maintaining their networks and improving them, lower sales and profits makes it more difficult to come up with the capital to do so.

I would think that at this point (and even as early as 2009), expending what is necessary to get the iPhone on a network is not "betting the farm" (as many said of Sprint), but rather a necessity that ensures survival, provided you don't muck up the rest of what you're doing as a telecom. We know that the iPhone is successful, so I don't think it can be seen by anyone as a gamble to spend the money or resources necessary to get it.

Quote:
We can see that T-Mobile is making some of its towers compatible with the iPhone, in the hope that Apple will allow them to get it.

But at this stage, will it matter? Isn't AT&T's LTE on the same frequency as T-Mobile's 3G? So shouldn't the next iPhone just work on T-Mobile 3G by default? I realize it's not that simple, but...

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #7 of 21
Funny how this article completely ignores subscriptions. As if selling the phones is all carriers do. The iphone has a smaller profit margin for the device sure. But i'd think the millions of subscribers more then make up for it.

Sony released the playstation 3 at UNDER development cost to the user to win the format war with bluray. But win it they did. They also made up the losses through the selling of SDKs, and software. PSN subscriptions, etc. If you look at the bottom line of a single aspects of an entire corperation you're just being ignorant to the design of the bigger picture.
post #8 of 21
This article gives me a headache.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Noooo...

Churn in the sense that iPhone users keep their phones longer than their 2 year contracts? Or, rather, more iPhone users keep their phones longer than their 2 year contracts than do non-iPhone users?


...

Churn is an industry term for switching carriers, not phones. In Australia it is quite common as mobile numbers are portable. At the end of a contract people may jump to another carrier because they believe they will get better service/price/phone.

Iphone is available on all carriers in Australia, but they don't advertise it. At all. Android phones are heavily advertised. Junk mail will not have an iphone in it, but ironically will have a myriad of iphone cases at the back of the brochure. Yet iPhone is the most popular phone.
It's the heat death of the universe, my friends.
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It's the heat death of the universe, my friends.
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post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MysticalOS View Post

Funny how this article completely ignores subscriptions. As if selling the phones is all carriers do. The iphone has a smaller profit margin for the device sure. But i'd think the millions of subscribers more then make up for it.

Sony released the playstation 3 at UNDER development cost to the user to win the format war with bluray. But win it they did. They also made up the losses through the selling of SDKs, and software. PSN subscriptions, etc. If you look at the bottom line of a single aspects of an entire corperation you're just being ignorant to the design of the bigger picture.

VZW was always able to maintain a lead on ATT, and always grew in subscribers every quarter pre iPhone so what increase are you referring to?
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
post #11 of 21
More accurately stated, the wireless carriers hate that consumers love the iPhone so much.
post #12 of 21
More accurately, the wireless carriers hate that consumers love the iPhone so much.
post #13 of 21
What these idiot critics don't realize is that:

1. The carrier may pay $450 for every iPhone sold.
2. But the carrier earns between $60 to $170 a month for at least 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Do the math.

Just take AT&T's unlimited voice plan with unlimited text messaging. That would cost you $140 a month. AT&T would make $3360 over 2 years for each iPhone. AT&T's profit is $2910 every 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Duh.
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

This is the best thing that's happened to Sprint in a long time. We can see that T-Mobile is making some of its towers compatible with the iPhone, in the hope that Apple will allow them to get it.

No, I'm inclined to think they're getting ready for the iPhone simply beacuse the next one is going to have a radio capable of AWS frequencies (why? Verizon holds a huge swath of AWS frequencies and can use them for LTE if their 700MHz spectrum gets crowded after launch).

Anyways, the two things these analysts forget is that 1) iPhone customers don't churn as much and 2) hand-me-down iPhones are quite popular. So when I buy an iPhone 5 this year, I hand my 4S down to a family member, and they will hand down their 4 to someone else, etc. Whatever part of their bill that would otherwise recoup the subsidy goes to profit since they aren't buying new phones that much. To put int another way, you can apply the part of the bill for the "subsidy" to the device they're using, regardless of how or when they bought it.

For a carrier like Sprint, this front-loads the cost of the phone into that subsidy. But that phone really isn't being subsided over 18-24 months, rather its more likely it will be subsidized over 36-48 months. My iPhone 3G from 2008 is still in use with a friend of mine, which means its been "subsidized" for more than 42 months at this point. You cant possibly tell me that's bad for carriers.
post #15 of 21
No iPhone on T-mobile (in the US) still bugs the heck out of me.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

No iPhone on T-mobile (in the US) still bugs the heck out of me.

Doesn't me. If you want one, you can have one right now. You've been able to have one since 1.0.2 in 2007. You're bothered by the lack if 1700MHz support more than anything, I'd imagine.

I love that they don't officially have it. They're the one carrier left in the country that lets you have an iPhone without a data plan. Data plans will be forced just like everyone else once T-Mobile gets it officially.

How so many people are affording $60 a month for 2GB that aren't even used if you're on Wi-Fi wherever you go remains beyond me.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

What these idiot critics don't realize is that:

1. The carrier may pay $450 for every iPhone sold.
2. But the carrier earns between $60 to $170 a month for at least 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Do the math.

Just take AT&T's unlimited voice plan with unlimited text messaging. That would cost you $140 a month. AT&T would make $3360 over 2 years for each iPhone. AT&T's profit is $2910 every 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Duh.

You have to all add in their 'overhead' expenses, research, advertisement etc. But obviously they are still making a profit.

Another thing is that somehow forgot to remember that if you quit or upgrade before the 2 years, you end up paying part or all of the subsidy back depending how long you went before you decided to break the 2 year contract....so either way, the carriers are just paying the subsidy to make it easier on consumers to buy the iPhone to begin with. Its almost like a loan.

These analysts have to be some trolls or want to buy Apple stock and need to lower the price. Because I dont see how a person with any type of common sense cant figure out that when a new iPhone comes out it is obvious profit margins are going to go down because of the fact that the carrier has to pay millions of subsidies. But within the first year or so they should have already recouped that money they paid upfront.
post #18 of 21
Ha Ha. F*** YOU MOBILE CARRIERS.

Translation:
Mobile carriers are greedy bums leeching off antiquated usage of their networks and are shocked by Apple teaching them what customers actually want.
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

What these idiot critics don't realize is that:

1. The carrier may pay $450 for every iPhone sold.
2. But the carrier earns between $60 to $170 a month for at least 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Do the math.

Just take AT&T's unlimited voice plan with unlimited text messaging. That would cost you $140 a month. AT&T would make $3360 over 2 years for each iPhone. AT&T's profit is $2910 every 2 years for each iPhone sold.

Duh.

Not to mention you selling your soul to carriers by having 2-year contracts, and illegal stuff (in Australia anyway) like officially offering only 1-year warranties on 2-year countries.
post #20 of 21
Poor carriers ... they really have it bad.

Verizon did a $106 billion in revenue last year and a $10 billion dollar profit. Poor Verizon.

Apple should just consume Sprint and offer their own network to customers, and let's see what Verizon and ATT do.
post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by axual View Post

Apple should just consume Sprint and offer their own network to customers, and let's see what Verizon and ATT do.

They'll do nothing.

All the other phone manufacturers will sue, however, since Apple apparently can't own their own network without letting others use it.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
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