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T-Mobile claims top spot in prepaid wireless market

After surpassing Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T for prepaid customers, T-Mobile CEO John Legere says, "I predict we'll overtake Sprint in total customers by the end of this year."

T-Mobile says it's surpassed AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in the prepaid market. Josh Miller/CNET

For years T-Mobile has been delegated to the last spot in the wireless carrier line-up. But, the company announced on Wednesday its revolution was underway -- now that it has the most prepaid customers among the four national carriers, it plans to overtake Sprint as No. 3 by the end of this year.

"The momentum we're seeing with our T-Mobile and MetroPCS brands is outstanding, and the fact that we've blown by everyone to take the No.1 spot in prepaid is icing on the cake," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. "As a matter of fact, I'm going on record -- I predict we'll overtake Sprint in total customers by the end of this year. Not someday. Not next year. This year. Americans are voting with their feet, and they're joining this Un-carrier revolution by the millions."

T-Mobile tooted its horn on Wednesday saying that the "most recent reported figures" show it has more prepaid customers than any of the other four top carriers in the US. The company said it has 15.65 million prepaid customers, while Sprint has 15.19 million, AT&T has 11.34 million, and Verizon has 6.04 million.

These numbers only take into account prepaid customers and not people who are on yearly contract plans. Looking at subscribers overall, T-Mobile still comes in fourth place. However, the carrier exceeded Wall Street's second-quarter expectations last week when it reported that its customer base surpassed the 50 million mark and it swung to a profit of $391 million, or 48 cents a share.

One of the reasons for the boom in T-Mobile's prepaid growth was its merger with MetroPCS in May 2013. T-Mobile said Wednesday that MetroPCS has gotten more than 1.2 million new customers since this time last year, which equals one customer every 27 seconds.

Over the past few months, there's been speculation that Sprint and its parent Japanese carrier SoftBank have been courting T-Mobile for a controlling stake in the company. It's believed that Sprint made an offer of $30 billion, but on Tuesday it was reported that the two companies decided the deal wouldn't pass muster with US regulatory agencies. However, reports on Wednesday say SoftBank remains interested, as does French telecommunications company Iliad.

CNET contacted T-Mobile for details on its numbers. We'll update the story when we have more information.