Verizon, AT&T see strong subscriber growth

Gains in wireless and broadband services bolster the companies' earnings in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
Verizon Communications and AT&T reported strong growth in wireless and broadband subscribers for the fourth quarter.

Revenue from Verizon Wireless accounted for $8.7 billion of Verizon's total revenue for the quarter, which was $19.3 billion. Verizon Wireless signed up a total of 2 million new wireless subscribers in the fourth quarter, increasing customer numbers by 21 percent from the same period a year earlier. It ended the fourth quarter with 51.3 million subscribers in total.

Strong growth in the wireless market has prompted Verizon to consider buying out partner Vodafone Group. CEO Ivan Seidenberg said Thursday during the company's quarterly conference call with analysts that the company is eager to buy Vodafone's stake in the company. Vodafone executives have said they might consider selling their stake at some point.

Seidenberg said Verizon could use proceeds from the sale of its directory business to finance the buyout.

Wireless services have been a growth engine for Verizon Communications and AT&T over the last couple of years. That trend is expected to continue in the future as the companies begin offering more services such as mobile TV, music downloads and high-speed Internet connectivity over their networks.

AT&T also reported higher wireless sales. Cingular Wireless, which AT&T owns a 60 percent stake in, added 1.8 million subscribers during the fourth quarter. The company reduced its "churn," or the rate at which customers switch service to another provider, to 2.1 percent. Cingular reported total quarterly revenue of $8.85 billion, up 24 percent from a year earlier.

Verizon and AT&T also saw strong sales of DSL (digital subscriber line) service. Verizon added 613,000 new broadband connections, ending the year with 5.1 million DSL subscribers. AT&T added 425,000 new subscribers for a total of 6.9 million DSL customers.

Verizon closed its acquisition of long-distance carrier MCI earlier this month, while SBC Communications closed its purchase of AT&T in November.