T-Mobile Shows Giveaways Are Crucial to Winning More Subscribers

  • Service provider uses donuts, free rides to gain customers
  • AT&T takes the high road by swearing off ‘extensive’ offers

T-Mobile US Inc. showed the path to winning mobile-phone customers is paved with freebies, after it signed up the most subscribers by giving away the most free stuff.

The fastest-growing U.S. mobile service provider added more than twice as many subscribers in the third quarter as closest giveaway rival Sprint Corp. Mobile-phone customers are the most prized because they tend to add tablets and family members to the bill. T-Mobile is the champion of charitable commerce, giving away perks like Lyft rides, Dunkin’ Donuts products and Netflix service to all subscribers.

Sprint, which has the lowest prices for unlimited data, offered some new customers one year of free wireless service. Third-place finisher Verizon Communications Inc. doesn’t go for heavy promotions, though it did create a two-tier unlimited price plan in August to cast a wider net for subscribers. And AT&T Inc. recently started dangling free HBO for life to unlimited data customers. But don’t expect anything crazy from AT&T in the future.

“We believe we can compete and win based on our product offerings and that promotional activity of an extensive nature is not necessary,” AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on an earnings call Tuesday.

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