AT&T sees a big $6.9B profit — but still gets trounced by Verizon

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For the first time in the past two years, AT&T actually has a profit for its fourth quarter.

The carrier today announced a healthy profit of $6.9 billion on $33.2 billion in revenues — a far cry from the huge $3.9 billion loss it saw last year and the $6.7 billion loss from two years ago (when the T-Mobile acquisition fell through). Analysts expected revenues of around $33.1 billion, according to Reuters.

But even with the good news, AT&T’s investors likely aren’t too pleased by Verizon’s even better quarterly earnings: a $7.9 billion profit. Verizon’s growth came from 1.7 million new customers during the quarter, while AT&T says it saw 1.2 million new contracted smartphones. That’s a new figure for AT&T, as it includes both new people and existing customers who upgraded to a smartphone.

Overall, smartphones accounted for 93 percent of phone sales during the quarter. AT&T says more than half of its customers are using a LTE 4G-capable device. The company’s LTE network now covers more than 280 million people across the U.S., and AT&T expects that network to be “substantially complete” by the summer.

Targeting T-Mobile’s recent claims that it now has the fastest data network in the country, AT&T also pointed to a recent report by RootMetrics that lists its network as the top performer in 93 out of 125 major cities. T-Mobile’s data is based on Ookla’s data, which is culled from actual user tests. AT&T also claims its network drops less than 1 percent of calls, the lowest figure from any major carrier.

Looking at all of 2013, AT&T saw $128.8 billion in revenues and $18.2 billion in profit. The company expects to grow its revenue by up to 3 percent in 2014.

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