Wireless carriers wind down quarter

The last of the nation's major wireless carriers--AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Nextel Communications--are set to post their first-quarter results on Wednesday.

Ben Charny
Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
2 min read
AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Nextel Communications are scheduled to report first-quarter earnings Wednesday, which will complete the latest pulse-taking by the wireless industry.

The results so far have been mixed, as indicated by Verizon Wireless on Tuesday and Sprint PCS on Monday. Both carriers added hundreds of thousands of new cell phone subscribers in the quarter, despite the slumping economy. But Sprint PCS reported a loss. And although revenue generated by Verizon Communications, a part-owner of Verizon Wireless, was up for the quarter, it wasn't as high as some analysts had expected.

Similar results can be expected on Wednesday when the rest of the major carriers in the United States post first-quarter earnings, analysts said.

Nextel Communications will have the strongest quarter of the three carriers, with about 16 cents per share, according to analysts polled by First Call. AT&T Wireless should report a profit of about 2 cents per share, the earnings tracking firm said. An estimate for Cingular Wireless, which is jointly owned by SBC Communications and BellSouth, was not available.

Despite the results so far, some analysts and telephone executives on Tuesday remained upbeat.

Verizon Wireless' results for the first quarter, in which it added 833,000 customers, helped to set aside some fears about the health of the wireless industry, according to J.P. Morgan Chase.

Rick Black, an analyst at market research company Blaylock & Partners, wrote that Sprint's first-quarter results--the worst of any cellular carrier so far--show that the company had "a bumpy ride, but turnaround is right on track."

Analyst Peter Friedland of investment firm W.R. Hambrecht said Sprint's results show "solid" subscriber growth, but weak revenue per user on average.

Verizon is the nation's largest cell phone carrier. It reported Tuesday that it had 33.3 million customers in the quarter, about 12 percent more than it did the same period last year. Analysts expect Verizon to earn $2.72 per share on revenue of $67.7 billion for the year, according to First Call.

"Our telecom business remains extremely strong, despite a tough operating and regulatory environment," Verizon Chief Financial Officer Doreen Toben told financial analysts on Tuesday.