The parent company of T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom, announced today that the country’s fourth-largest carrier will begin selling Apple products in 2013. While it doesn’t specifically name the iPhone in the press release, it is reasonably assured that the carrier will sell the next version of Apple’s popular smartphone — either that, or a LTE-compatible iPad.
And while it would be safe to assume that if T-Mobile does start selling the iPhone next year it would come to AWS carriers in Canada, specifically WIND, Mobilicity and Videotron, let’s talk for a second about why that may not be true.
First of all, T-Mobile plans to launch its LTE network in 2013 across the AWS spectrum as it repurposes its HSPA+ network for PCS. The company is already transitioning some of its HSPA+ network to the 1900Mhz frequency to free up the space it needs on AWS (1700/2100) for LTE. This stands to make not only any new iPhones that Apple releases next year, but the existing AT&T/Rogers/Bell/TELUS iPhone 5, compatible with its network, so it’s not surprising that T-Mobile made the announcement today.
For the next iPhone to be compatible with AWS carriers in Canada it would need to support HSPA+ on AWS, something Apple is unlikely to do given its track record. WIND and Mobilicity don’t have enough spectrum to deploy HSPA+ on another frequency while it builds up LTE over AWS, so this announcement may not affect whether the new entrants get the iPhone. It’s also not likely that the new entrants will start building over their LTE networks until the 700Mhz spectrum auction, slated for mid-2013. We’ll have a better idea then what their plans are for LTE.
Then there is the problem of scale: Apple expects its partner carriers to make huge investments, both in stock and in marketing, around the iPhone. Sprint’s commitment to sell 30 million iPhones over four years nearly bankrupted them, and while Canadian carriers don’t share the same sale expectations, it may not be worth Apple’s time to ensure compatibility with our new entrants given their current market share.
Though this announcement does bring a glimmer of hope to current WIND, Mobilicity and Videotron users looking to use an iPhone on their AWS HSPA+ networks, it looks like T-Mobile is moving to where Apple’s puck is and not the other way around. We’ll know more in the coming months but, until then, temper your expectations.