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T-Mobile racks up new customers as it awaits merger outcome

The "Un-carrier" continues to do its thing, as it waits for a federal judge to decide the fate of its $26 billion merger with Sprint.

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T-Mobile added 1 million of its most-valuable customers in the fourth quarter of 2019, the company said Tuesday. The news comes as the third largest US wireless carrier awaits the outcome of a federal court case to decide whether it will be allowed to merge with Sprint.

The company issued preliminary results and said it added a total of 1 million so-called postpaid cellphone customers in the final three months of 2019. These are customers who pay their bill at the end of the month and in the wireless market are considered the most profitable type of customers. The company also added 77,000 prepaid customers, or customers who pay for service in advance. 

T-Mobile has consistently been adding new subscribers to its services. The company said in a press release that its total customer base, including prepaid and postpaid cellphone users and other wireless customers, as well as wholesale subscribers, which use T-Mobile's network to sell service under a different brand, was 86 million at the end of 2019. The company said this was an increase of 53 million in total subscribers since the company launched its Un-carrier marketing campaign in 2013.

The continued subscriber growth comes as T-Mobile awaits the outcome of its $26 billion merger with Sprint. The deal, announced in 2018, has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the US Department of Justice. But it could be derailed by a lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general, led by California and New York, seeking to stop the merger. The state AGs argue the merger would hurt competition and raise prices for consumers. 

A two-week trial in federal court in New York started in December. Closing arguments from both sides are scheduled for Jan. 15. Several top executives from T-Mobile, Sprint, and satellite TV provider Dish Network testified at trial. As part of its condition for approving the deal, T-Mobile worked out a deal with Dish to buy assets and start a new fourth nationwide wireless competitor. 

If the merger is allowed to go through, the combined company would be roughly equal in size to AT&T and Verizon Communications, the nation's two largest wireless carriers. 

T-Mobile is expected to release a more detailed look at its full earnings for the fourth quarter and 2019 next month.