AT&T revenue misses estimates as customers keep phones longer

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Overall, the Dallas company reported first-quarter earnings of $3.47 billion, or 56 cents per share, down from $3.8 billion, or 61 cents, the year before. Wireless service revenues of $14.5 billion were down 1.8 percent with pressure from adoption of Mobile Share and unlimited plans, partially offset by continued growth in branded smartphones and tablets.

Analysts were expecting $40.5 billion in revenue and $0.74 EPS. "The strategic moves we've made over the last few months to expand our wireless capacity and fortify our 5G leadership will be felt for years to come", said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO.

It's dropped providing consolidated revenue guidance due to "unpredictability" of wireless handset sales, but following its FirstNet contract award, it's forecasting full-year EPS (without any Time Warner impact) growing in mid-single digits, expansion in its adjusted operating margin, capex of around $22B and free cash flow around $18B. AT&T also said it had 1.8 million connected devices on the 2G network it shut down in January; those 2G customers were removed from the company's subscriber count at the beginning of the year.

Operating expenses fell to $32.5 billion from $33.4 billion; operating income was $6.9 billion versus $7.1 billion; and operating income margin was 17.4 percent versus 17.6 percent.

Smaller rivals like T-Mobile US Inc (NASDAQ:TMUS) and Sprint Corp (NYSE:S) have engaged in aggressive price wars, and it appears that's catching up to AT&T.

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AT&T said it ended the period with 4.6 million AT&T Fiber "customer locations" and plans to add 2 million to that total in 2017.

The company noted it had 2.7 million wireless net adds for the quarter.

AT&T's wireless business, its main moneymaker, lost 348,000 mainstream wireless phone customers, marking a return to the large losses characteristic of the past two years after an easing in the previous period. AT&T Inc. reports earnings Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

AT&T is in the midst of acquiring Time Warner for $85 billion, and the telecommunications company said Tuesday that it expects approval from the U.S. Department of Justice this year.

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