AT&T's Q3 strong: 6.1 million smartphones, 4.7 million iPhones

The company added that it activated 4.7 million iPhones and 18 percent of those customers were new to AT&T.

AT&T reported better-than-expected third quarter earnings as it sold 6.1 million smartphones, including 4.7 million iPhones.

The company reported third quarter earnings of $3.6 billion, or 63 cents a share, on revenue of $31.5 billion, flat with a year ago. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 60 cents a share.

AT&T said that it sold 6.1 million smartphones in the third quarter, up 1.3 million from a year ago. The company added that it activated 4.7 million iPhones and 18 percent of those customers were new to AT&T. The company also said it had its best sales quarter for Android and Windows Phone devices, but didn't offer specifics.

AT&T wireless chief Ralph de la Vega said on a conference call that his company's iPhone 5 sales were "about twice our closest competitor." Roughly speaking, that comment translates to 1.3 million iPhone 5 devices in the third quarter.

That said AT&T wants to diversify. De la Vega said:

Our lineup for the fourth quarter include includes several devices using the new Windows 8 operating system, including our exclusive Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820. We will also be the only carrier offering new Windows 8 tablets from ASUS and Samsung. We also added great Android devices to our lineup, the HTC ONE X and the LG Optimus G. And it's not just smartphones and tablets; we also offer the Samsung Galaxy camera.

For comparison, Verizon sold 6.8 million smartphones in the third quarter and 4.5 million were LTE (3.4 million Android). Note: Verizon said that it sold 3.1 million iPhones and 21 percent of them were LTE. That sum implies Verizon added 651,000 iPhone 5 units. The LTE reference includes postpaid additions for Verizon. 

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Meanwhile, the telecom giant has been moving subscribers to tiered data plans. Churn in the third quarter was 1.08 percent on a postpaid basis. Total churn was 1.34 percent up from 1.28 percent in the third quarter a year ago.

Wireless revenue in the third quarter was $16.6 billion, up 6.6 percent from a year ago. AT&T added that its LTE rollout is ahead of schedule.

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On the wireline front, AT&T said that it added 198,000 U-Verse TV subscribers and now has 4.3 million customers. U-Verse Internet customers showed a net gain of 613,000 subscribers in the third quarter to end with 7.1 million customers.

Business revenue in the third quarter was $9.1 billion, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

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