Montreal-based national carrier Bell reported 87,529 postpaid wireless net subscriber additions in Q3 2020, and now has a total of 9,292,751 postpaid wireless subscribers.
This is a 12.5 percent decrease from the 127,172 postpaid net subscribers the carrier reported in Q3 2019, according to its Q3 2020 quarterly earnings report released on November 5th.
The carrier notes that “although retail traffic increased with the re-opening of stores and resumption of competitive promotional offers, the COVID situation continued to have an impact on overall market activity, including back-to-school sales.”
The carrier also reported 40,639 prepaid net additions, which is a 15.4 percent decrease from the 76,895 reported in Q3 2019. It now has a total of 847,676 prepaid subscribers.
Total wireless subscribers at Bell and its sub-brands is now a combined 10,140,427, which is a 3.1 percent increase over last year.
Bell notes that declines were partly offset by an improvement in postpaid customer churn to 1.04 percent, a decline from the 1.12 percent reported in the same period last year. Churn rate is the percentage of subscribers who discontinue their subscriptions in a month.
The carrier’s blended ABPU (average billing per unit) for Q3 2020 was $65.74, representing a six percent decrease from the $69.93 reported in Q3 2019.
“This quarter’s result reflected lower roaming due to COVID travel restrictions, further data overage contraction and the dilutive impact of continued prepaid customer growth,” Bell outlined.
Bell’s operating revenue decreased 2.6 percent to $5.787 million, compared to $5,940 million in Q3 2019. The carrier notes that this is due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, particularly on media advertising demand, wireless roaming volumes, and reduced or delayed spending by business customers.
“With a steadfast focus on our long-term strategy throughout the challenges of 2020, the Bell team continues to deliver the benefits of next-generation network and service investment to our shareholders, customers and communities,” Bell CEO Mirko Bibic outlined in the report.
The report also outlines that Crave saw a three percent year-over-year increase in total subscribers, but it’s unknown what the subscriber number currently stands at.
During the carrier’s call with investors, Bibic stated that Bell is ready to be competitive during Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season. However, he outlined that it’s unknown what it will look like compared to previous years due to the pandemic.
Further, Bell CFO Glen LeBlanc applauded Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s recent proposed bill to amend the Broadcasting Act. He said it’s a good start, but that the amendments should be implemented quickly and not be stalled any longer.
For context, the proposed Broadcasting Act update gives the CRTC flexible powers to regulate online platforms, and essentially aims to force streaming services to support Canadian content.
LeBlanc also stated that the government needs to “get going on the sales tax for streaming services” such as Netflix, which is something that the Heritage Minister has promised. He also outlined that the issue of piracy needs to be addressed.
In terms of 2021 and the future, Bibic stated that Bell is expecting to see momentum, especially with the launch of standalone “true” 5G networks following the government’s spectrum auction.