T-Mobile claims victory over AT&T but numbers muddy the waters

T-Mobile has stated it is now targeting Verizon’s crown with AT&T in the rear-view mirror, but the subscriber statistics don’t necessarily support the boasting.

Alongside its financial results, which were also looking very attractive, T-Mobile executives point to more than 1.2 million customer additions to the subscriber base. If you listen to the Magenta Army’s Generals, T-Mobile is now the number two player in the market.

“Surpassing AT&T to become number two was a huge milestone to kick off Q2, but that was only the beginning,” said CEO Mike Sievert. “In our first quarter as a combined company, T-Mobile led the industry in total branded customer adds – even in a challenging environment – and there is no doubt that we are the leading growth company in wireless.”

The issue is with this statement is that it is not necessarily true.

T-Mobile finished the quarter with 98.3 million customers, 65.1 million of which were postpaid contracts, though paying a recurring bill at the beginning of each month. AT&T reported its own financials in July, with 74.9 postpaid customers and just over 18 million prepaid. There will also an additional 6.7 million subscribers on the network through resellers and another 71 million connected devices.

If you count the total number of prepaid and postpaid customers, T-Mobile is the number two player. However, if you only count the more valuable postpaid subscribers, AT&T is still in second place. If you were to bundle everything together (postpaid, prepaid, reseller and connected devices), AT&T still leads T-Mobile.

Who is in second place really depends on what subscriptions you want to count and which ones you would like to ignore.

Aside from the slightly dubious claim, the telco is making steady progress, though year-on-year comparisons are difficult when the Sprint acquisition is taken into account.

This is the interesting thing about this claim by Sievert. T-Mobile is growing its customer base quarter-on-quarter, while AT&T’s is shrinking, and the Magenta army looks in a better position in the 5G stakes. There are plenty of other metrics the CEO could have pointed to without bringing ambiguity into the equation.

Financial results for quarter ending June 30 (in thousands, USD)
Metric Q2 2020 Year-on-year
Total service revenues 13,230 54.8%
Total revenues 17,671 61%
Net income 110 -88.3%
Adjusted EBITDA 7,017 102.7%


  1. Avatar Michael V 07/08/2020 @ 6:16 pm

    Both Postpaid & prepay customers should always be counted. It doesn’t make sense to leave out prepay or even make it an option. That’s actually confuses things.
    All four Operators here in the UK market always include both. Regardless of the service being sold directly or from a different store / seller.

  2. Avatar Dieter Bohler 11/08/2020 @ 2:22 pm

    it is always prepaid + postpaid….that’s the standard… a website for the industry you should know this and not call T-Mobile dubious …a very strange article indeed !

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