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Majority of net new subscribers were prepaid in Q4 2009

The results from the fourth quarter of 2009 are in, and we’ve gone over the available numbers for prepaid carriers. They didn’t seem absurdly high, and in fact a few carriers missed their estimates. Even so, prepaid adds accounted for 65 percent of net new adds industry-wide in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. Then again, with Sprint losing customers and T-Mobile adding more prepaid subscribers than postpaid, this comes as less of a surprise. It appears that the efforts of carriers like MetroPCS, Cricket, and Boost Mobile paid off. We also found out some less reported statistics regarding total subscribers for the major prepaid carriers.

Here’s the breakdown, according to IDC. Note that Boost’s numbers include Virgin Mobile, which became part of Sprint in the fourth quarter.

Carrier Total Subs
Tracfone 14.4m
Boost 10.6m
T-Mobile 7m
MetroPCS 6.6m
Cricket 4.9m
Verizon 5.4m
AT&T 5.4m

A combined MetroPCS/Cricket outfit, then, would boast 11.5 million customers, shooting them past Boost. And, again, they’d have the potential for even more subscribers with a more contiguous network.

Also, IDC notes that while Verizon and AT&T ended the year with roughly the same number of prepaid subscribers, Verizon is trending up, having added 500,000 subscribers in 2009, while AT&T is trending downward, having lost 800,000.

This is definitely something to look for in April when we start seeing Q1 2010 results. Will prepaid’s share of the total market grow? Or will Sprint rally and change the paradigm?