Wireless Carriers: Bernstein Sees Potential Disaster Looming

One odd thing about the current state of the wireless phone market is that while demand for handsets seems to be in free fall–Canaccord Adams’s latest forecast, for instance, has 2009 units down 26 percent–the U.S. wireless carriers all seem fairly upbeat on their growth prospects for 2009.

Indeed, Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett today notes in a research piece called “U.S. Wireless ’09: A Recipe For Disaster?” that every U.S. wireless carrier thinks it is so well-positioned that it will take market share in 2009–but of course, that’s not possible.

Moffett adds that the situation is made trickier still by the fact that “the size of the pie is shrinking rapidly.” He says U.S. wireless industry subscriber growth was just 5.9 percent in 2008, and will fall below three percent growth in 2009. Moffett adds that subscriber growth has been falling at an accelerating rate: In Q1 2008, net additions were down 16.1 percent; by Q4, net additions were falling 38.8 percent.

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