Drake is the real winner in the battle between Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T

Key Points
  • The top carriers are engaged in a price and data battle leading to more streaming of content.
  • Drake's album recently broke the record for most streams in a single week.
Taylor Swift and Drake
Kevin Mazur | WireImage | Getty Images

AT&T and T-Mobile may be declaring victory among the mobile carriers this earnings season, but the real winner is another group entirely: Drake fans.

All three major wireless carriers saw less adjusted revenue than expected during the latest quarter, with AT&T reporting results on Tuesday and T-Mobile a day earlier. But as they roll out unlimited data plans to compete, consumers are using more bandwidth than ever — a boon to artists like Drake.

T-Mobile sees data volumes growing about 40 percent year-over-year, technology chief Neville Ray told analysts on a conference call, with operating chief G. Michael Sievert adding that "the era of the data bucket is over." AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson noted that unlimited data plans increase mobile video usage and "made an already competitive market even more so."

Verizon said last week that the launch of Verizon Unlimited helped stem customer losses toward the end of the quarter, noting that LTE data traffic increased 57 percent over the prior year in the first quarter.

Streaming has hit new highs

Meanwhile, Drake's new album "More Life" hit a record in March for most streams in a single week in the U.S., according to Nielsen.

While it's unclear how many of those are on mobile, it's increasingly becoming the medium of choice as data restrictions loosen. An Accenture report published this week saw a steep decline among those who prefer a TV set to laptops, desktops and smartphones.

Other streaming services have also made big strides on mobile. Netflix, for instance, added slightly fewer-than-expected subscribers in the first quarter, but that didn't stop it from crushing rivals in the App Store, where Sensor Tower estimates sales grew 63 percent in the first quarter. Six of Sensor Tower's top non-game apps by revenue were for streaming video or music. Just last week, YouTube jumped to the top of the App Store thanks to live streaming, according to separate data.

So while Drake's fans "used to call him on his cell phone," maybe now they are using it to stream him instead.