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AT&T Wireless Loses Lots of Subscribers, Cingular Gains

AT&T Wireless acknowledged Tuesday that it continued to lose significant numbers of customers in the first quarter of 2004 while Cingular Wireless reported large gains.

Cingular is in the process of acquiring AT&T Wireless. The latter company acknowledged in a statement that it lost 367,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2004 compared to gaining 257,000 subscribers in the same quarter a year ago. It previously had reported net customer losses in the fourth quarter of 2003 even as other carriers reported gains.

By contrast, Cingular reported a net gain of 554,000 subscribers in the first quarter. It also reported that it its network will entirely use GSM technology within the next 90 days.

AT&T Wireless' acknowledgement confirmed rumors that had swirled in recent weeks that the wireless carrier, which is in the process of being acquired by Cingular Wireless, had lost subscribers at a rapid rate. The company said in a statement that a leading factor in the subscriber losses was wireless local number portability (WLNP).

WLNP refers to a federal mandate that went into effect last November that enables customers to switch carriers and keep their phone numbers. The company also acknowledged that the customer losses in the first quarter also resulted from backoffice system problems in the fourth quarter that resulted in poor customer service, a problem it previously discussed.

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