Why Verizon is losing more cellphone customers than ever

The largest USA wireless carrier shed 307,000 customers in the period, dragging down sales and profit and sending shares sinking to their lowest price since November. Total wireless revenue fell 5 percent to $20.9 billion.

Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said he is open to deal talks with a variety of companies, including Comcast and Walt Disney Co.

Ellis added that Verizon would "of course" take calls from potential merger suitors. "We're also busy enhancing our network to handle 3D, virtual reality and holographic puppy memes".

Verizon's shares were down 1.2 percent at $48.33 in midday trade. They fell as much as 2.5 percent during the trading day. "To build on our loyal customer base and the third-party recognition we have received for network leadership, we extended our wireless and fiber network capabilities, began offering an unlimited pricing option and expanded our opportunities in new markets".

The competitive wireless market has led to speculation that Verizon will try to buy another company to broaden its business.

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That decision is coming back to haunt the carriers, as many customers aren't renewing those data plans.

Verizon has been struggling to fend off smaller rivals T-Mobile US Inc TMUS.O and Sprint Corp S.N in a maturing market for USA wireless service, and in February offered an unlimited data plan for the first time in more than five years.

It is the first time in seven years Verizon has offered unlimited data, which really isn't unlimited.

Growth in the wireless subscribers has slowed down now that most Americans have a cellphone.

From the beginning of the year until the unlimited plan was unveiled on February 12, Verizon lost a net 398,000 regular monthly phone customers, by far the most it had ever lost in an entire quarter.

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"Though they lost more than 300,000 customers in the quarter it would have been much worse had they not offered unlimited halfway through the quarter", said Kevin Roe, an analyst at Roe Equity Research LLC. Verizon's main competitor AT&T Inc. plans to diversify its business through an $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. and has already purchased satellite TV company DirecTV.

It doesn't help that Verizon said in Thursday's earnings report that AOL's revenues fell 4 percent in the first quarter. This was down from $4.31 billion, or $1.06 per share, reported in the same period a year earlier. These results failed to meet the expectations of Wall Street.

According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, analysts had expected adjusted earnings per share of 99 cents and revenue of $30.77 billion.

Verizon's total consolidated operating revenues in the first-quarter of 2017 were $29.8 billion, a 7.3% decrease compared with first-quarter 2016.

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