Friday, November 30, 2012

Could this be it? T-Mobile USA rumored to announce iPhone deal next week

T-Mobile has been modifying its network to support the iPhone, but has only managed to upgrade 15 markets so far. That point may be moot, however, if a report issued Thursday turns out to be true.

Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig has issued a research note stating that "speculation is heightening" that Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile USA's parent company) will announce a deal to bring the iPhone to its U.S. subsidiary at next week's analysts' day (which runs on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7).

This is not, of course, the same thing as T-Mobile USA announcing that it finally has access to the iPhone. It's also the case that rumors have flown for years about T-Mobile USA getting access to the iPhone, and the nation's No. 4 wireless carrier has had to eat crow (and lose subscribers) while Verizon and Sprint joined AT&T in selling the iPhone. It has also seen a number of small regional carriers begin shipping Apple's hot smartphone.

Speaking at the recent Morgan Stanley 12th Annual Technology, Media and Telecoms Conference in Barcelona, Spain,, T-Mobile USA COO Jim Alling admitted that the lack of an iPhone has been a source of user churn. He said, "We recognize that it has been a point of churn for us."

However, he also added that while the company would love the iPhone, it does not want to sign a deal "similar to one a competitor recently signed with Apple." He did not detail which carrier he was speaking of, but we'd guess that was a reference to Sprint, which began carrying the iPhone in late 2011 under a deal that some have said was Apple extracting its pound of flesh (or at least, a ton of money).

Craig noted that by adding T-Mobile to its stable of carriers, Apple would then have access to 98 percent of the U.S. post-paid market and 75 percent of the country's total mobile subscribers. However he added that "While this would be incrementally positive, any financial impact would be limited."

He estimated that a T-Mobile agreement would add about 4 million iPhones to his current estimate of 179 million sold in calendar 2013, adding about one percent to Apple's revenue and two percent to the company's earnings.

For T-Mobile, naturally, the addition of the iPhone would be far more key.  The company says it already has about 1.5 million T-customers using unlocked iPhones on its network.

No comments: