Are US Mobile Operators Fudging Their Numbers?

from the growing-too-quickly dept

Recently, we’ve pointed to reports in Europe and Australia where mobile operators were forced to admit that they had inflated their subscriber counts, usually by keeping obviously dead prepaid accounts in the list. You would think that this would be less of an issue in the US, where prepaid accounts aren’t quite as popular (though, they are catching on), but there’s a growing rumbling among many suggesting that US mobile operators must be lying about subscriber numbers. The problem, it seems, is that subscriber growth isn’t following the same pattern it followed in other countries, where it started to slow down when it hit a certain saturation point. Instead, the growth in the US just shot right through that barrier, raising a few eyebrows. Some are saying that the US is “different,” and you could make a claim they’re right. After all, the US was behind in mobile services, but it’s closing the gap in what is being offered. Those additional offerings could help explain the continued growth — but given the stories coming out from operators around the globe, it wouldn’t be surprising to find out the real answer is simply fudged numbers. Unfortunately, this is likely to continue. The focus from Wall Street on subscriber numbers is too great, and the punishment for getting caught with fudged numbers just isn’t that high. The incentives are too strong for operators to simply stretch the facts out a bit.

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