T-Mobile announced its fourth quarter and 2019 results today, and once again the nation's third-largest carrier showed spectacular growth. During the three months from October through December, the carrier added 1.9 million net new subscribers. In the most important metric, branded postpaid phone subscribers, T-Mobile picked up one million such customers. That compares to the 754,000 net new branded phone subscribers picked up last quarter and the 1.02 million it added during the same quarter last year. T-Mobile ended the year with 40 million postpaid phone subscribers, up 8% year-over-year. Branded postpaid phone churn was 1.01%, up 2 basis points from the .99% it reported during last year's fourth quarter. For the year, postpaid churn improved sharply from 1.01% to .89%.
T-Mobile reported 1.4 million net new postpaid additions and 1.9 million net new customer additions during the fourth quarter. At year's end, the carrier had 68 million branded postpaid subscribers, up 7% on an annual basis. Overall, T-Mobile finished 2019 with 86 million total customers, more than 7 million or 8% higher than the number of total subscribers that T-Mobile had at the end of 2018. Net new branded prepaid customers during the quarter amounted to 77,000. That is much lower than the 135,000 it added to this category during last year's fourth quarter. At the end of 2019, the company counted nearly 21 million prepaid subscribers, slightly lower than the figure reported for the end of 2018. Prepaid churn, always higher than the figure for postpaid, came to 3.97%, down from 3.99 year-over-year. For 2019, T-Mobile's prepaid churn was 3.82%, down 14 basis points from 2018's figure.
It was another industry-leading quarter for T-Mobile; the carrier has added more than five million customers for the last six consecutive years
The mastermind behind T-Mobile's ascent, CEO John Legere, said, "T-Mobile delivered another incredible fourth quarter with strong customer growth, despite a very competitive environment - and we did it while lighting up the country's first nationwide 5G network and working to close our merger with Sprint. Seven million net customers have chosen to join the Un-carrier movement in 2019, and they are choosing T-Mobile because we treat them right, we eliminate their pain points, and we are changing the rules of this industry for customers everywhere." Legere is leaving T-Mobile in May and is turning over the CEO office to Mike Sievert. Since T-Mobile started with the Un-carrier branding in 2013, it has added 53 million customers.
Last month, the carrier became the first to offer nationwide 5G service in the U.S., lighting up the low-band 600MHz spectrum it spent $7.99 billion to win in an FCC auction in 2017. The network now covers 200 million Americans. These airwaves travel farther and penetrate structures better than high-band airwaves. T-Mobile hopes that by closing on the merger with Sprint, it will acquire the latter's 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum. helping it cover rural Americans with 5G signals; combined with ultra-high mmWave spectrum, T-Mobile will have a fast 5G national network that will cover the country and deliver fast 5G coverage. Legere says that with the merger, T-Mobile will "triple the total 5G capacity of standalone T-Mobile and Sprint combined." If the deal gets shot down, Legere said under oath that in some markets, the carrier will "exhaust capacity in the next two to four years."
With the FCC and Justice Department already approving the $26.5 billion transaction, the lone hurdle in the way is the lawsuit filed by state attorneys general and the attorney general of Washington D.C. that seeks to block the deal. The plaintiffs say that reducing the number of major U.S. wireless providers by 25% will lead to less competition and higher prices in the industry. The non-jury trial is set to resume with closing arguments on January 15th with a decision announced in February.