The second quarter of 2020 was a momentous one for T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS). Long chasing the two largest mobile networks in the U.S., Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T), the pink-logoed "Un-carrier" merged with Sprint and its more than 29 million subscribers on April 1 and had industry-best net subscriber additions of 1.25 million in the quarter. At the end of June, that equated to 98.3 million T-Mobile-branded mobile customers, more than the 92.9 million at AT&T but fewer than the nearly 120 million at Verizon.

The company noted in its press release that the quarter was highlighted by "overtaking AT&T in total branded customers as America’s No. 2 wireless provider and another quarter of industry-leading customer growth."

Winning the connection battle

With the new 5G era dawning, T-Mobile is in good shape to compete in the competitive mobile-service space. The company has launched its nationwide 5G network, which covers 250 million consumers over 1.3 million square miles, which it says is more than double AT&T’s geographic coverage. Verizon trails both of its smaller rivals, although its 5G aspirations are decidedly different, focusing on millimeter wave technology that has limited coverage but speeds rivaling that of connected-fiber internet. Also, in some speed tests, Verizon's 4G LTE network was as fast or faster than both T-Mobile's and AT&T's 5G.  

A city skyline with illustrated bubbles containing 5G and various electronic devices floating above it.

Image source: Getty Images.

T-Mobile's advance with the help of Sprint is notable nonetheless. Whatever marketing sticker is slapped on it, the company's mobile network capabilities are improving, and it's attracting lots of new customers. The number of phones that can hook up to 5G is expected to increase dramatically in the next year, which could prompt even more consumers to make the switch, not to mention set off a smartphone upgrade cycle that could also lift T-Mobile's device retail sales. 

After the takeover of Sprint, T-Mobile was beginning to look a little more like its rivals, with $11.1 billion in cash and equivalents and $66.6 billion in debt. However, it's still less indebted than AT&T ($16.9 billion in cash and $169 billion in debt) and Verizon ($7.88 billion in cash and $113 billion in debt). Put another way, though it still doesn't boast the best network here in the states, it isn't hard to imagine T-Mobile continuing to close the gap with AT&T and Verizon in the years ahead on both mobile-network capabilities and number of total subscribers.