The Bellevue-based carrier added 1.1 million new monthly subscribers in the first quarter, more than its biggest competitors.
T-Mobile US, the country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, outpaced its two biggest competitors in adding customers in the first quarter, putting the company in better position to move up to No. 3 when the current third-place holder, Sprint, reports financial results next week.
Bellevue-based T-Mobile added 1.8 million subscribers from January to March, 1.1 million of which were postpaid customers — considered the most lucrative in the telecom industry. It was the third quarter in a row the company has added more than 1 million postpaid customers, and the eighth quarter it had added more than 1 million total net customers.
To compare, Verizon added 565,000 postpaid customers in the quarter and AT&T added 441,000.
Sprint has stepped up its promotion and pricing tactics, adding 892,000 customers in the fourth quarter of last year, after it gained less than half million the previous quarter and losing customers the two quarters before that. With T-Mobile’s most recent gains, Sprint will need about 900,000 to keep its third-place ranking.
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Since its 2013 merger with MetroPCS, T-Mobile has added about 13 million customers, reaching a total of 56.8 million at the end of the first quarter. Sprint has hovered around 55 million since 2011.
The topic of surpassing Sprint did not come up during Tuesday’s earnings call with analysts and the media, but T-Mobile CEO John Legere did say Sprint is doing some interesting things and that it will be “interesting to see Sprint’s earnings.”
To attract new customers and steal others away from its competitors, T-Mobile has been touting its “un-carrier” offerings, which range from removing mandatory two-year service contracts, to offering unlimited music streaming and Wi-Fi-calling and texting, to a simplified pricing plan for business customers.
These pricing tactics and un-carrier incentives have come at a price and one un-carrier move announced last year — data stash — particularly affected this quarter’s bottom line.
Overall, T-Mobile reported $7.8 billion in revenue in the latest quarter, up 13 percent from the same period last year, beating analyst estimates of $7.7 billion.
But the company missed income estimates, posting a first-quarter loss of $63 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $151 million, or 19 cents a share, a year earlier. Accounting for a dividend paid during the first quarter for preferred stock, T-Mobile reported a loss of $77 million. Analysts had estimated the loss would be $31.2 million.
In a statement, the company said it expects earnings per share to be positive for the rest of the year.
Data stash, a data-rollover feature that gave each qualified customer 10 gigabytes of free data in January, had a $112 million noncash revenue deferral that brought the top-line sales down, Chief Financial Officer Braxton Carter explained on Tuesday’s call. As customers use their 10 GB throughout the year, the $112 million will fully reverse, he said.
“What is a little bit of a head wind in Q1 will turn into a tail wind,” he said.
T-Mobile finished the quarter with $3 billion in cash — down from $5.3 billion at the end of 2014.
As part of its network modernization, T-Mobile used $982 million to purchase property and equipment and also paid the Federal Communications Commission $1.4 billion for the AWS-3 spectrum licenses in February. It had already paid a $400 million deposit. The company said it received the licenses in the second quarter.
The next auction, in which T-Mobile said it expects to be a big participant, has been delayed until 2016.
T-Mobile shares fell 9 cents Wednesday, closing at $33.97, a decline of 0.26 percent.