11:19 AM

Verizon Regains Lead In Wireless Subscribers; Sprint Gets Some Good News

Market research firm IDC says there were 236 million U.S. wireless subscribers at the end of 2006 and their data revenue totaled $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter.

Battered by a run of bad news in recent months, Sprint Nextel received some welcome news Wednesday when research firm IDC reported that its customers spend more on wireless data than the customers of other wireless carriers.

IDC also said Verizon Wireless had moved past AT&T's Cingular Wireless in an important subscriber category. "Verizon became the new market leader in terms of total direct retail subscribers/customers, with a total of 56.8 million, against 56.3 million for Cingular," said IDC's Julien Blin in a statement.

Blin, who is a research analyst in IDC's Wireless and Mobile Communications program, also reported that Verizon held its leadership position for total wireless data revenue and data percentage of average revenue per user.

The market research firm said there were 236 million U.S. wireless subscribers at the end of 2006. Their data revenue totaled $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter and that figure represented 13.5% of the ARPU, or $6.74 a month.

"Our research shows that in terms of blended data ARPU, Sprint Nextel, at $8.32, regained its lead over Verizon, now at $7.91," Blin said. Blended data includes e-mail, text messaging, and other nonvoice services.

Sprint has been struggling to integrate recently acquired Nextel and has been losing a substantial number of subscribers and employees in the process. Last week, Sprint lost its bid to become a prime contractor for the federal government's massive Networx contract.

Sprint also has been racing to deploy an advanced 3G network as well as WiMax in an effort to regain its lost business and boost new business.

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