T-Mobile, Sprint taking each other's customers

Slowing market spurs encroaching into competitors' turf

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T-Mobile US and Sprint say they are taking each others’ customers as the two smallest U.S. wireless carriers search for growth amid a slowing mobile-phone market.

T-Mobile added about 753,000 monthly phone subscribers so far in the third quarter, leaving only half a month to reach the 899,000 average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg — and still shy of the 1.1 million gain a year earlier. The carrier lured 250,000 customers from Verizon Communications Inc., 400,000 from AT&T Inc. and 300,000 from Sprint, according to a statement Tuesday.

The gains from people who switched from other carriers don’t include the number of customers who have cut their T-Mobile service.

Sprint, meanwhile, is drawing subscribers away from T-Mobile, CEO Marcelo Claure said in an interview Tuesday. Claure disputed T-Mobile’s numbers, and said Sprint will wait until the end of the quarter to release official subscriber numbers.

When finally tallied, the current quarter’s results could show a subscriber slowdown for T-Mobile and a resurgence for Sprint.

“Sprint has shown greater stability in recent quarters and no longer appears to be the big share donor as it was in the past,” said John Butler, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

Both Sprint and T-Mobile reported strong demand for the Apple Inc.’s iPhone 7, which was released earlier this month. To kick off iPhone sales, the carriers introduced $160-a-month unlimited data plans aimed at families of four, a lucrative consumer group. The price push has been seen as a threat to larger rivals including Verizon Communications Inc.

Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile reiterated its full-year outlook for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and amortization of $9.8 billion to $10.1 billion.

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