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Verizon maintains lead over AT&T in wireless subscriber count

News by Todd Haselton on Friday January 28, 2011.

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Yesterday we briefly reported that AT&T had surpassed Verizon Wireless as the nation's largest wireless carrier. Fact is, we were misled by the different ways AT&T and Verizon Wireless report their customers.

AT&T said yesterday that it added 2.8 million wireless subscribers during Q4 2010, a record, and that it now serves 95.5 million "subscribers." Verizon recently reported its Q4 2010 earnings, too, and said that it serves 94.1 million "customers", but has 102.2 million "total connections." We mistakenly read AT&T's subscribers as being equivalent to Verizon's customers.

That's not the case.

AT&T's 95.5 million figure includes customers with connected devices, such as tablets, that are not on AT&T contracts. An AT&T spokesperson told Computerworld that AT&T believes owners of connected devices that aren't on contracts are still "subscribing" to AT&T's service and so includes them in its subscriber figures.

That's a different view than that taken by Verizon, which would call that figure total connections. By comparison, AT&T has 86 million total customers, when you take out the connected devices, leaving it trailing Verizon's 94.1 million figure by a significant margin.

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About the author

Todd Haselton
Todd is a senior editor at MobileBurn and works out of his home in New York City. He covers news for us and also writes reviews. You can follow him on Twitter at @RoboTodd

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