Since most people’s contracts are usually 2 years long, you don’t usually see any significant movements of subscribers from one carrier to another. They happen slowly and quarterly, after all, it would take at least 8 quarters for a company to theoretically lose all of their subscribers if every single person wanted to leave. So, it comes as little surprise that Sprint still holds the numbers 3 spot in terms of subscribers when compared to T-Mobile. Based on T-Mobile’s last earnings call, they ended the first quarter of this year up 2.4 million with nearly 50 million customers, coming ever closer to Sprint’s 54 million. And if you take into consideration T-Mobile’s JUMP program and the millions of customers that are involved in that, it seems logical that T-Mobile would be buying more phones from manufacturers. Also, keep in mind that T-Mobile also offers a no-contract plan option and actually encourages a lot of users to buy their owns outright and just pay the base price of T-Mobile’s service.
According to Reuters, the fact that they had added more subscribers than any other carrier in the US significantly added to this overtaking of Sprint. T-Mobile bought 6 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year while Sprint only bought 5 million, according to Neil Shah of Counterpoint Technology Market Research. There wasn’t much other useful information from Reuters or Neil Shah in the article, although one can surmise that if a carrier is ordering more phones than their larger competitor that they’re clearly doing more business ans signing up more customers for plans. And now that T-Mobile is selling more phones than Sprint, its merely a matter of time until they surpass Sprint in subscribers as well. However, that might change if the T-Mobile-Sprint merger/acquisition is approved by the DoJ and FTC.
This is also possibly because T-Mobile is also a leader in technology, adopting certain technologies like VoLTE ahead of their competitors, especially Sprint who has yet to deploy enough of an LTE network to even consider the idea of VoLTE. T-Mobile is also vastly faster and cheaper than Sprint in a lot of scenarios so, I have a feeling that a lot of T-Mobile’s customers are AT&T and Sprint customers, which could be why Softbank, Sprint’s parent, want to buy them.