AT&T's $42B in Q4 2015 Revenue Just Misses Analyst Expectations

The mobile carrier also reported $4 billion in net income and 353,000 net postpaid customer additions, giving it 73.6 million total wireless customers.

AT&T, revenue, earnings, Q4 2015, wireless carriers, mobile carriers, postpaid additions, DirecTV

AT&T earned $42 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015 as the company gained 353,000 additional net postpaid customers and reported a net income of $4.08 billion.

The figures, which were reported by the company Jan. 26, were an improvement from the same quarter one year ago when AT&T posted revenue of $34.4 billion and a net loss of $3.9 billion.

Still, the $42 billion in revenue, which was up 22 percent from last year due largely to the 2015 acquisition of DirecTV, was slightly below the $42.75 billion that was expected by financial analysts who were polled by Thomson Reuters, according to a Jan. 26 story by Reuters.

AT&T's wireless subscriber numbers rose to 73.65 million, up from 65.1 million a year prior, including 48.29 million postpaid wireless subscribers, which was up from 45.16 million one year ago. The company reported 1.56 million net customer additions, including 353,000 net postpaid customer additions. Both numbers were down from 1.86 million net customer additions one year ago, including 566,000 postpaid net adds. The company reported a postpaid churn rate of 1.10 percent, up slightly from 1.08 percent one year ago.

On the positive side, AT&T gained 1.2 million net prepaid customer additions, adding to its prepaid mobile customer ranks.

"We now have a unique set of capabilities that positions us for growth and also gives us a strategic advantage in providing consumers and businesses the integrated mobile, video and data solutions they want," Randall Stephenson, the chairman and CEO of AT&T, said in a statement. "Our DirecTV integration is going well, and the customer response to our new integrated mobile and entertainment offers is strong. Throughout this year, we plan to launch a variety of new video entertainment packages that give customers even more choices."

Earnings per share for Q4 2015 were 65 cents per share, compared with a net loss of 77 cents per share in the same quarter one year ago.

AT&T's full-year 2015 revenue totaled $146.8 billion, compared with $132.4 billion for the same quarter one year ago.

Earlier in January, AT&T offered its customers a special deal to also sign up for its DirecTV or U-Verse TV programming subscription services with unlimited data on their AT&T mobile phone accounts so they can watch videos or TV shows anywhere. The AT&T Unlimited Plan starts at $100 monthly for the first smartphone, $40 each month for the next two smartphones on an account, and no charge for monthly service on a fourth smartphone, for a total of $180 per month for four family members.

About 500,000 customers have signed up for the offer so far, according to the Reuters report.

Several IT analysts told eWEEK that AT&T's earnings figures are positive for the company.

"AT&T's earnings were in line with analyst expectations though the company was dinged slightly by an accounting charge related to the DirecTV acquisition," said Charles King, the principal analyst at Pund-IT. "Wireless customer growth seems pretty healthy but the company's efforts there lagged Verizon by a fair bit. Overall, I'd call it a decent quarter with hopes of further improvement later in the year."

Bill Menezes of Gartner told eWEEK in an email reply that "the big jump in AT&T prepaid net adds versus the loss of postpaid phone subscribers reflects to me what looks like a successful evolution of the prepaid phone model."

With the ending of many mobile services contract options for consumers, "now that the predominant consumer model is buying a full priced, unlocked phone (which can be used on other carriers), some AT&T customers no doubt look at Cricket plans and see an opportunity to shave a few dollars a month off their bill while remaining on the AT&T network," he wrote.

The company's upgrades on its newly acquired networks in Mexico also seem to be another "big opportunity for growth on the smartphone side that clearly is fading in the U.S. market," wrote Menezes.

Jan Dawson, the chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, wrote that while there were no huge surprises in AT&T's results, he noted that the company appears to be the only one of the big four U.S. carriers that's losing postpaid phone subscribers. "But it's leading the market in prepaid, and dominates the connected devices space right now, especially around connected cars. So it's doing really well."