T-Mobile outshines rivals in luring new subscribers

Though it still lags in overall number of subscribers, the carrier beat rivals last quarter in terms of gaining new customers and keeping old ones, according to a research firm.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

T-Mobile CEO John Legere's aggressive promotions seem to be paying off. Josh Miller/CNET

T-Mobile ended 2014 with the best quarter of all four major US carriers -- at least in one respect.

In a recent survey of mobile phone users, research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) found that T-Mobile scored the highest percentage among major carriers in terms of winning over new customers and retaining existing subscribers. Specifically, T-Mobile saw its customer base grow 29 percent during the fourth quarter last year. The consumers included in the analysis were ones that bought a mobile phone for the first time, those who switched carriers and those who renewed contracts with their existing carrier.

"We take a quarterly view of loyalty and churn, focusing on customers who activate a phone within the quarter," CIRP partner and co-founder Mike Levin said in a press release. "T-Mobile started the quarter with 10 percent of the consumers in our quarterly survey of phone activators and ended the quarter with 13 percent. This 29 percent increase in share of this quarter's phone activators is consistent with the recent T-Mobile announcement that they added about 2 million customers."

T-Mobile has been fighting to overtake Sprint and gain some ground against top players Verizon and AT&T in the mobile marketplace. Toward that end, the carrier has launched aggressive promotions, such as competitive data plans, price discounts and rollover data, to win over new customers and retain existing ones.

Though T-Mobile scored the highest percentage of customer adds and retentions, the company still hovers around last place among the other four major carriers based on the amount of phone activations during the fourth quarter. According to the CIRP survey, T-Mobile is in third place, still slightly ahead of Sprint.

However, it appears that Sprint takes the lead in number of subscribers when compared to T-Mobile's numbers. A Sprint spokesman said January 8 that Sprint had around 56 million subscribers at the end of the last quarter. Taking into account its reported 2.1 million new customers, T-Mobile stands at more than 55 million subscribers.

Among the four US carriers, AT&T fared the best in customer loyalty, according to CIRP's survey, but its percentages weren't as impressive when it came to attracting new customers.

"AT&T had the most loyal customers, retaining 88 percent of those that activated a phone during the quarter," CIRP partner and co-founder Josh Lowitz said. "However, AT&T did not attract as many new customers as a percent of their base at the beginning of the quarter. Relative to its base, T-Mobile attracted the highest percentage of new customers in the quarter, though they also [retained] a greater percentage of existing customers than Verizon and AT&T."

CIRP based its data on a January poll of 500 people who activated a new or used phone during the last quarter of 2014.