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John LegereT-Mobile has not been shy about its goal of overtaking Sprint as the third-largest carrier by the end of the year.

So, how is the race going?

According to the Bellevue-based carrier, it’s all roses. In August, it added 2.75 million gross additions to make it the company’s best month ever, but a new report published today suggests the race is closer than it looks.

According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, which analyzed wireless trends for the third quarter, Sprint beat T-Mobile by attracting the highest percentage of new customers at 43 percent. Meanwhile, T-Mobile attracted slightly less at 39 percent.

Still, the strategy of trying to offer more data at even lower prices is paying off for both underdogs.

While the four major carriers all added subscribers during the quarter, AT&T added the fewest new subscribers at 17 percent and Verizon added only 26 percent. (This takes into account both new subscribers coming from other carriers and first-time phone buyers.)

cirp customer gainsBut adding customers is only half of the equation.

Retention also plays a big role, and when you take loyalty into account, the report found that Verizon did the best among all the carriers. It started the quarter with 28 percent of the consumers in the survey of phone activators, and ended the quarter with 32 percent. Its increase in share of phone activations suggest that Verizon added close to two million phone customers in the quarter. Verizon also retained 89 percent of its users, which is the highest among the top four carriers.


Meanwhile T-Mobile was only able to retain 67 percent of its customers. AT&T and Sprint’s retention rates fell between with 85 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

While it appears that the T-Mobile’s “Un-Carrier” marketing efforts are still working, it’s not as clear cut as it was in the beginning of the year when the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile was still in the works and Sprint had not yet put its full marketing muscle behind new low-priced offerings.

In fact, in the first quarter, the same research firm said T-Mobile — not Sprint — had the greatest subscriber growth out of any U.S. carrier. At the time, T-Mobile also had a slightly better retention rate of 70 percent (compared to Q3’s 67 percent).

We’ve reached out to T-Mobile for comment, but the company is unlikely to discuss results before it reports third-quarter earnings, which are expected out soon.

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