A lot. Over six million as of summer 2011.
This was a question that took us some time to answer. The facts simply are not readily available, and Safelink Wireless, Assurance Wireless and ReachOut Wireless do not give out their numbers.
But we accepted this challenge and went digging through government information and came up with some estimated numbers that should be close to being on target. Our first calculations led to the article, Assurance Wireless gaining on Safelink Wireless.
As that article points out, as of March 31, 2011, we estimated that the total number of subscribers of the “big three” Lifeline cell phone companies is 6,352,427. Other smaller providers exist, but the numbers are too small to spend time counting.
Here is the breakdown for the three free government cell phone providers:
But you should also note the calculated growth rates in the article. While Safelink Wireless holds the lead, they are not growing anywhere near as strongly as Assurance Wireless, or ReachOut Wireless for that matter. The first place ranking could change by 2012.