Montreal-based national carrier Bell reported 92,928 postpaid wireless net subscriber additions in Q4 2020, and now has a total of 9,385,679 postpaid wireless subscribers.
This is a 13.2 percent decrease from the 121,599 postpaid net subscribers the carrier reported in Q4 2019, according to its Q4 2020 quarterly earnings report released on February 4th.
Bell says overall market activity was impacted by reduced retail store traffic and transaction volumes during the pandemic, which led to a decline in postpaid gross additions.
The carrier’s prepaid customer base decreased by 11,672 net subscribers in the quarter, compared to a net gain of 1,983 in Q4 2019. It now has a total of 836,004 prepaid subscribers.
“The decline reflected lower overall market activity due to reduced immigration and fewer visitors to Canada during COVID-19, resulting in 16.8 percent fewer gross additions,” the report outlines.
Total wireless subscribers at Bell and its sub-brands is now a combined 10,221,683 which is a 2.5 percent increase over last year.
Bell notes that declines were partly offset by an improvement in postpaid customer churn to 1.11 percent, a decline from the 1.28 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 Q4 2020 was $64.71, representing a 3.9 percent decrease from the same period a year ago.
The report states that this reflected “reduced roaming due to COVID-19 and ongoing contraction of data overage revenue driven by the adoption of big bucket and unlimited rate plans, this result represented a second consecutive quarter of ABPU improvement.”
Bell’s wireless operating revenue decreased 1.9 percent in Q4 2020 to $2,408 million, and by 3.5 percent to $8,683 million for 2020, reflecting lower service and product revenues.
The carrier’s operating revenue declined 2.8 percent to $6,102 million in the quarter, as the pandemic continued to impact consumer and commercial activity including wireless product sales and media advertising.
Alongside Bell’s quarterly results, the carrier announced an investment plan to advance internet and 5G network rollouts with at least $1 billion in accelerated capital over the next two years.
The carrier says this is the biggest ever annual capital plan in its history. The capital plan aims to add up to 900,000 additional fibre and rural wireless home internet locations while also doubling its 5G coverage this year.
During the carrier’s call with investors, Bibic stated the extended lockdowns clearly had an impact on the volume of transactions, but stated there was a benefit in terms of churn rate. He said that although transactions are down, the company’s focus on high-quality smartphone loading is paying off.