Yesterday, AT&T reported their Q4 2010 numbers and with it came a huge kudos: they surpassed Verizon Wireless as America’s largest carrier. Pulled directly from their neatly bulleted list of bravado we read the related stat:
Best-ever wireless net adds, with a more than 2.8 million increase in total wireless subscribers to reach 95.5 million subscribers in service
Did you know that 95.5 is larger than 94.1? Did you know that Verizon Wireless has 94.1 million subscribers? Did you know that numbers are deceiving and despite all the claims that AT&T is now the nation’s largest carrier, it’s actually Verizon Wireless that still holds the title?
Allow us to do the math.
There are two types of customers/device types in-play here: Customers Including Connections and Customers Excluding Connections. What’s the difference? Connected devices are those that a carrier sells but that don’t necessarily require a 2-year service plan. For example, you could buy a Kindle or iPad that uses AT&T service to connect but you’re not actually required to sign a contract longer than 1-month. If you include all these “extra” devices, yes, AT&T has 95.5 million customers.
Verizon’s 94.1 million customers? Those don’t include all the “extra” devices that might run on the network without a 2-year contract. If you include all those “extra” devices, Verizon has 102.2 million customers. And as I’m sure you know, 102.2 million is larger than 95.5 million.
Let’s visualize what’s going on:
So yes, you could say that AT&T is bigger than Verizon Wireless… but you’d be wrong. That’s comparing Apples to Oranges. Ironically, you want to compare Apples to Apples, and with Verizon on the brink of launching the iPhone… you’ll be able to compare Apples to Apples between Verizon and AT&T for years to come. But personally I prefer Androids to Androids.