T-Mobile USA will begin selling the iPhone, and perhaps other Apple products beginning next year. While the last of the major domestic carriers to offer the phone, one thought is that the company will start offering the phone at the same time it strengthens its 4G network early next year. Reports indicate T-Mobile will offer the phone without subsidies, but with cheaper monthly plans. This is more common in Europe, for instance, and other U.S. carriers could be moving in this direction. Overall, it’s a good step to provide customers with an alternative to the usual way of purchasing a phone and plan. But the market for potential new buyers of the phone may be somewhat capped by the full cost of the phone. On the other hand, consumers who already have the iPhone may be tempted to sign up with T-Mobile due to the low monthly plans.
More positive steps are needed by T-Mobile to make up the ground it has lost over the years to its competitors. Sprint may be close to purchasing a controlling stake in Clearwire and appears fully energized following its agreement for investment from Softbank. And Dish may finally be getting somewhere with its wireless proposal. T-Mobile’s proposed MetroPCS merger is really a way for Deutsche Telekom to slowly exit the U.S. market. It’s a necessary step that will allow T-Mobile to go its own way as a public company, whether this be as an aggressive acquirer or to sell itself. If the company chooses to be aggressive, I’ve previously proposed one way for it to differentiate itself in the market.
The mobile market continues to shake out and this will take some time. There will be players exiting and entering the market. T-Mobile’s challenge is to stay ahead of the curve this round, rather than allow events in the market to dictate its position. Their margin for error is even slimmer this time around.