Despite the well-publicized problems AT&T has had handling the surge of data traffic from iPhone users, the Apple device continues to be a new customer magnet for the wireless carrier.
Announcing third-quarter earnings this morning, AT&T said it activated a record 3.2 million iPhones during the period. Of those, 40% were new subscribers to AT&T. Overall, the carrier added 2 million subscribers in the quarter for a total of 81.6 million.
"We delivered a terrific wireless quarter, IP data growth was strong and execution across the business continues to be solid," said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in a statement.
Wireless data revenues , from services like messaging, Web access and mobile applications, grew 33.6% from a year ago to $3.6 billion-more than double the total in the same quarter two years ago. Data sales now accounts for 29.4% of AT&T's wireless revenue.
The company overall beat analyst expectations, posting earnings of $3.2 billion, or 54 cents a share, down from $3.23 billion, or 55 cents a share, a year go. Revenue fell 1.6% to $30.86 billion.
Compared to Apple's huge third-quarter, posting a 47% profit spike powered by the sale of 7.4 million iPhones, AT&T 's earnings may not look so impressive. But the fortunes of both companies are now inextricably linked to the iPhone, for better or worse. In that regard, Stephenson may be breathing easier since prospects for a Verizon iPhone dimmed with its wireless rival bashing the Apple device in a new campaign for the Android-powered Droid smartphone coming next month. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, here's your big opening to get the iPhone.