T-Mobile is crowing that it’s now the second-largest wireless service provider, overtaking incumbent AT&T. But is it? A closer look shows the “Un-Carrier” might not be making an apples-to-apples (or cellphones to cellphones) comparison.
T-Mobile claims that it has 98 million subscribers, of which roughly 12.5 million fall under the “postpaid other” category. This includes wearables like the Apple Watch and connected devices such as wireless hotspots and Android tablets. AT&T, on the other hand, has 93 million subscribers, which it says are inclusive to postpaid and prepaid; the figure does not include tablets, wearables and hotspots, it says.
“This is bunk,” says Frank Gillett, an analyst at market research company Forrester regarding T-Mobile's assertion. “T-Mobile’s marketing mavens are trying to use this to make noise. AT&T can easily counter this by saying it does more smartphones, or gadgets. The question is will they even bother?”
AT&T has spent a lot on marketing to lure those subscribers. The company is the third largest spender in the U.S., with $5.4 billion in total U.S. ad spending for 2019, according to the Ad Age Datacenter. By comparison, T-Mobile spent about $2.4 billion in total U.S. ad spending last year, making in the nation’s 14th largest ad spender in the country.