T-Mobile USA Inc., the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, could use parent Deutsche Telekom AG’s sales agreement with Apple Inc. to sell the iPhone in 2013, Sanford C. Bernstein’s Craig Moffett said.
Apple and Deutsche Telekom are “increasingly likely” to reach an agreement for T-Mobile to sell iPhones in the U.S. next year, Moffett, a New York-based analyst, wrote in a research note Tuesday.
Without the iPhone, T-Mobile has struggled to keep lucrative contract customers. The carrier lost 510,000 monthly subscribers in the first quarter while rivals AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless together added 688,000 so-called post-paid customers. More than half of the smartphones sold at AT&T and Verizon in the first quarter were iPhones.
“IPhone availability at T-Mobile USA would likely reduce contract losses at that company, and push Deutsche Telekom U.S. to a net revenue growth position much sooner than the market expects,” Moffett wrote.
Apple has traditionally made iPhone sales agreements with carriers in specific countries. These agreements include volume commitments, such as Sprint Nextel Corp.’s four-year, $15.5 billion iPhone deal last year that requires Overland Park-based Sprint to sell about 30 million iPhones.
This year Apple has expanded its iPhone agreements beyond top-tier players. Regional pay-as-you-go provider Leap Wireless International Inc. and Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA have started selling the iPhone with prepaid plans.
Natalie Harrison, an Apple spokeswoman, and David Henderson, a spokesman for T-Mobile USA, both declined to comment.
The move to prepaid service suggests Apple is looking for more fuel to feed its iPhone growth, said Walt Piecyk, an analyst with BTIG LLC.
“Apple might be more willing to reduce their required commitment if sales are cooling,” Piecyk said in an e-mail.
One hurdle for T-Mobile is that its network hasn’t been compatible with any of the current iPhones. That has started to change as Deutsche Telekom pledged $1.4 billion toward network upgrades in the U.S.
The so-called fourth-generation wireless technology expansion has been key to Deutsche Telekom’s renewed effort to revive growth at T-Mobile USA and accommodate the iPhone. In a March 12 blog entry, T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said “our 4G network will be compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone.”