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AT&T tops earnings estimate as phone customers rush back

It's a reversal from a year ago, when phone customers were leaving for competitors. The company also added 2.8 million HBO and HBO Max subscribers.

AT&T held a panel to talk about 5G earlier this month. 

AT&T's getting its wireless momentum back. The company boasted the strongest second quarter in 10 years in the key growth area of post-paid subscribers -- or customers with higher credit scores who pay at the end of the month -- and also saw growth in its HBO and HBO Max streaming service. 

The company has spent the last few months returning its focus to its core wireless business and its 5G rollout. It has agreed to spin off its Warner Media business -- which includes HBO, CNN and Warner Bros. studio -- in a deal with Discovery that's expected to close next year. 

It's not the only carrier to scale back its media ambitions. Verizon sold its Yahoo, AOL and media properties to Apollo Investment Group, and T-Mobile scuttled its TVision streaming service after just five months. Instead, many are leaning on their traditional business through aggressive promotions. 

That helped AT&T in the first quarter, and the growth continued in the period ending in June. It added 789,000 net post-paid phone and 1.16 million total postpaid customers, while its turnover rate of 0.69% was its lowest ever. In comparison, Verizon added 275,000 postpaid phone customers and 528,000 total postpaid customers in the same period. 

AT&T also hit its goal of covering 250 million people with its nationwide 5G network six months earlier than expected. 

The company added 2.8 million HBO and HBO Max customers and raised its estimate for total customers by year end to 70 million to 73 million. 

In total, AT&T posted net income of $1.51 billion, or  21 cents a share, and revenue of $44.04 billion. Its adjusted earnings per share, which excludes one-time items, was 89 cents. Analysts expected earnings of 79 cents a share and $42.64 billion in revenue, according to Yahoo Finance

AT&T shares slipped 0.1% to $27.87 in recent trading. 

Update: Added total post-paid numbers.