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T-Mobile edges out Sprint, becomes third-largest carrier

A cellphone running on the T-Mobile wireless network.
A cellphone running on the T-Mobile wireless network.

T-Mobile USA became the third-largest wireless carrier in America this week after Sprint’s quarterly earnings revealed the legacy mobile phone company had fallen behind in subscribers comparatively.

For weeks, T-Mobile chief executive John Legere has been boasting about the magenta company’s position as third largest in America, but the quarterly earnings released by Sprint on Tuesday now backs that assertion.

The earnings reveal that Sprint logged 57 million wireless customers in America in its recent quarter, about two million short of T-Mobile. Last quarter, T-Mobile added two million wireless customers while Sprint added a mere 600,000, according to figures released by both companies.

For the past few years, T-Mobile has launched aggressive campaigns against its three main rivals in the United States — AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — enticing customers to its network with benefits including unlimited mobile data for smartphones (on a majority of plans, T-Mobile only caps the amount of LTE, or fast, data), no overages and other perks like unlimited and unmetered use of streaming music services.

Competitors have taken note of T-Mobile’s service and product announcements — which the company brands as the “Uncarrier Movement” — in re-tooling some of their own offerings. When T-Mobile announced “Jump,” a monthly payment plan that allows people to upgrade their phones much sooner than the industry standard two years for a nominal monthly fee, other companies followed suit with similar plans.

T-Mobile is not without its faults. Although the company claims to have the fastest wireless broadband Internet speeds, its broadband network is considerably smaller than that of AT&T and Verizon.

Its dwarfed network footprint compared to the other two companies was one motivating factor behind a proposed merger with Sprint last year. The deal fell through last August after federal regulators signaled their interest in preserving the current landscape, largely on the belief that four wireless carriers competing against each other would be good for competition.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).