AT&T LTE ad at a San Francisco store

AT&T and Verizon have long dominated the American cellular landscape, but there's always been a top dog (more recently, Verizon). In the first quarter of the year, however, something strange happened -- the carriers virtually tied each other for market share, according to estimates by analyst Chetan Sharma. While the providers publish different figures (AT&T includes virtual networks and machine-to-machine links that Verizon doesn't), Sharma believes that they both had 34 percent of US subscribers. AT&T reportedly leveled the playing field when it bought Leap and added all of Cricket's customers.

This isn't to say that either of the big two telcos can rest easily. While Sprint is still bleeding subscribers and dipped to 16 percent of the US market, T-Mobile is thriving -- the UnCarrier added twice as many users as its top three rivals put together, giving it a 14 percent slice. It's difficult to know for sure whether the estimate is completely accurate given the lack of directly comparable official numbers. No matter what, you can't count on this state of affairs lasting for very long. Sprint's rumored acquisition of T-Mobile could quickly tip the balance, and it wouldn't take much for AT&T or Verizon to claim an absolute lead.

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AT&T and Verizon are tied for the most US cellular customers