The one-upping in the US carrier industry of "who has the most subscribers" sometimes seems to be a driver behind mergers and the like. Well, we're half joking, but it certainly seems that way sometimes. When Cingular combined with the old AT&T Wireless years back to leap ahead of Verizon Wireless as the largest U.S. mobile carrier, we're sure Verizon was a little steamed. It took some time, but Verizon Wireless has clawed its way back to the top of the pile, as IDC now says that Verizon's 56.8 million U.S. subscribers has caused AT&T to fall into second place in the country with 56.3 million subs insofar as direct retail customers. Add the fact that Verizon Wireless also has the top spot for wireless data usage and percent of subscriber revenue used on data, and pow -- AT&T just got dealt a blow. AT&T won't be down for the count though with its retail customers, we think. It just might buy T-Mobile USA if Deutsche Telekom wants to sell it -- or not. Perhaps Alltel? Why, we love GSM and CDMA carrier combinations! In the meantime, we suppose they can still tout their status as the nation's largest GSM carrier, but it just doesn't have the same ring to it, now does it?

[update: added additional description]

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