Ina Fried

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Yep, the Wireless Industry Actually Lost Contract Customers Last Quarter

iStockphoto | italianestro

The analysts thought this might happen — and it did. The titans of the U.S. cellular industry managed to see their total number of on-contract customers drop last quarter.

Typically, the major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, see some shift in their share but manage to post a cumulative gain in so-called postpaid customers.

This quarter, though, gains at Verizon and AT&T weren’t enough to offset the steep losses at T-Mobile, Sprint and other carriers. T-Mobile alone lost half a million contract customers in the January-to-March quarter, while Sprint lost 192,000 contract customers.

The Associated Press did the math and calculated a drop in the industry of 52,000 contract subscribers at the top seven carriers. That contrasts with the prepaid industry (both from the Big Four carriers and smaller players such as MetroPCS, Cricket and TracFone), which saw gains of two million customers in the quarter.

As brokerage Jefferies & Company noted ahead of the earnings report season, the cellphone industry tends to face a tough few months after the initial bump that follows the introduction of a new iPhone.

(Image courtesy of iStockphoto | italianestro)

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