T-Mobile USA has long been on the sidelines of the iPhone revolution, but the carrier is working hard to change that.
Until very recently, T-Mobile had very little shot at being able to carry the iPhone. Although it uses the same type of network technology as AT&T, it uses a different band of spectrum for its higher-speed data network.
That has meant that one of two things would have had to happen in order for there to be a T-Mobile-capable iPhone. Either Apple would have to build in support for T-Mobile’s unique spectrum band, or else T-Mobile would have to rework its entire network to carry data over a more iPhone-friendly piece of spectrum.
For much of the past year, T-Mobile has been doing the latter Several cities are already up and running, with T-Mobile promising even more progress by the end of the year.
Merrill Lynch said this week that the T-Mobile will be taking things a whole lot further with plans to finally start selling the Apple phone.
Without the iPhone, T-Mobile has been bleeding contract customers. In the past two years, not only have Verizon and Sprint started carrying the iPhone, but also a variety of regional and prepaid carriers, as well, leaving T-Mobile (and merger partner MetroPCS) among the few major carriers without an iPhone to sell.
T-Mobile has been careful not to say that it is getting the iPhone, only that it would like to sell Apple’s phone. However, it would certainly help the company justify the big network switchover if it wasn’t relegated to convincing customers to bring their own iPhone.
Though it has never had an iPhone of its own, T-Mobile has long let customers bring their own device. Even before its effort to enable high-speed data for the iPhone, T-Mobile had more than one million iPhones running on its network.
Now, as the company prepares to spend billions on an LTE network and gobble up MetroPCS, it arguably needs Apple now more than ever. And, typically, a relationship with Apple doesn’t come cheap. Companies have to spend a pretty penny on each device and, at least in the case of Sprint, agree to hefty commitments that make the iPhone an expensive, if much-needed, device.