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April 19, 2006 at 10:23 AM

Cingular adds 1.7 million subscribers

Cingular Wireless reported today that it added 1.7 million subscribers in the first quarter for a total of 55.8 million, securing its No. 1 position in the U.S.

Helping boost subscriber numbers was Cingular’s ability to keep existing customers and add new ones. During the quarter, its churn dropped to 1.9 percent, its lowest ever. The number of customers added were also helped by attracting new pre-paid customers and its national distribution agreement with RadioShack.

The first quarter can either be slow because consumers rush to buy phones as Christmas presents in the fourth quarter, or it can be strong because of a spillover effect, with people still out shopping.

“Cingular got out of the gate fast in the first quarter,” said Stan Sigman, Cingular’s CEO. “We continue to move in the right direction on our major metrics — churn, customer additions, margins, revenue growth and more.”

Cingular, owned by AT&T and BellSouth, is the first of the national carriers to report first-quarter earnings. The company’s nearest competitor, Verizon Wireless, has 51.3 million subscribers.

At CTIA Wireless 2006 in Las Vegas earlier this month, Denny Strigl, Verizon Wireless’s CEO, told me that its not his company’s goal to be the largest carrier in the U.S.

“We aren’t focused in having the most number of customers,” Strigl said. “We are known for having the most reliable network in the marketplace. If someday we surpass the largest carrier, so be it.”

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