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AT&T adds 2M customers, keeps pace with T-Mobile

Much of its growth, however, now comes from connecting cars and other devices. AT&T does say it added phone customers in the period.

Marguerite Reardon/CNET

AT&T kept its customer growth engine humming in the third quarter.

The Dallas telecommunications giant released early financial figures for the third quarter in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying it added more than 2 million net new customers. That's just behind the 2.1 million customers T-Mobile CEO John Legere disclosed at an investor conference earlier this month.

AT&T, however, has more recently obtained its growth through areas beyond its core smartphone business such as cars and other connected devices. The nation's second-largest wireless carrier has been the most aggressive in exploring these new areas as the traditional smartphone business matures.

The results are similar to its second-quarter results, when it added 2.1 million customers largely thanks to connected cars and tablets. While the carriers count a phone subscriber and a connected car each as one customer, they generate far less revenue from a connected device than a traditional smartphone plan.

AT&T has struggled with its phone business in recent quarters, but the company said it expects to add branded voice customers -- the industry term for phone customers -- in the third quarter.

In comparison, Legere said that T-Mobile would add more 760,000 phone customers in the period.

AT&T, which released the results early because of an upcoming analyst presentation on Wednesday, also reiterated its full-year forecast of adjusted earnings to be between $2.62 and $2.68 a share, above Wall Street's forecast of $2.62 a share, and double-digit growth in revenue.

The company also said its integration efforts with DirecTV, the satellite TV provider it acquired in July, are in line or ahead of expectations. In Mexico, AT&T is on track to cover 40 million people with its 4G LTE network by the end of the year.