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T-Mobile’s wild ride might finally be slowing down

Since hiring CEO John Legere in 2012 and debuting its new Uncarrier strategy, T-Mobile has turned into the kind of success story that gets MBA professors hot under the collar. T-Mobile turned its scrappy underdog status into a marketing plug, and by adding the iPhone to its lineup and investing heavily in network infrastructure, the company’s product is now on par with AT&T and Verizon.

It’s not just the network, either — T-Mobile’s aggressive pricing and impressive customer loyalty has driven its new customer subscriptions to a point where it’s challenging AT&T and Verizon, and it’s leaving Sprint in the rear-view mirror. But according to CIRP’s latest consumer survey, the wild ride might be coming to an end.

CIRP’s study found that while T-Mobile’s share of activations is still growing the fastest among all four companies, but its share was at the lowest point that it’s been in the last two years.  “Considering both
customers gained from other companies, and also customers buying a first phone, T-Mobile grew the most, increasing its customer base 8% relative to the customers who activated a phone in the quarter and started with T-Mobile,” said co-founder of CIRP Mike Levin. “While this is the largest gain among the four companies, it is the smallest such gain for T-Mobile in the past two years.”

Verizon had the largest share of activations in the quarter, at 28%. AT&T was at 23%, down significantly from last year, while T-Mobile was at 21%. The Uncarrier keeps punching above its weight, considering that it has about half the number of subscribers as Verizon or AT&T.  “Both T-Mobile and Sprint individually grew well for many quarters, using aggressive pricing and novel marketing,” said Josh Lowitz, CIRP co-founder. “After taking share from AT&T and Verizon, and also each other, it looks like they need to find growth elsewhere. With current market saturation, neither T-Mobile nor Sprint can grow organically to unseat AT&T or Verizon for a top 2 position among US carriers.”

That could be why T-Mobile and Sprint have been rumored to restart merger talks. A tie-up between the two companies has been rumored for years, but talks were put on hold late last year, as neither parent company wanted to give up control of the joint enterprise.