Earnings calls are usually a rather boring affair, unless the company is run by John Legere and includes a guy wearing a pink cowboy hat. T-Mobile had its Q4 2014 earnings call this morning, and the entire thing was live streamed on YouTube. When asked about T-Mobile's growth versus Sprint, John Legere explains why T-Mobile has already passed the Now Network to become the third largest carrier in the US. Why doesn't Sprint agree? It's apparently relying on a technicality.
At the end of 2014, T-Mobile reported 55 million subscribers and Sprint reported a little over 55 million. This was seen as a minor failure for T-Mobile, which was expected to surpass Sprint in 2014. The video above is queued up to the point in the call where Legere explains the situation.
He alleges that Sprint's post-paid accounts have been falling over the last few years, but it has been holding steady at 55 million total customers thanks to pre-paid MVNO accounts. However, Sprint has extended the amount of time those accounts can be inactive before they are dropped from the overall count. It now holds onto them for six months instead of 60-90 days like T-Mobile and other carriers.
Legere says Sprint has 1.7 million of these customers per its own Q4 report. Thus, if Sprint counted active accounts the way everyone else does, it would have less than 55 million. So, I guess T-Mobile is number three, then.