T-Mobile COO Jim Alling would love to carry the iPhone—and T-Mobile can support iPhones—but he’s unwilling to make the financial sacrifices that his competitors have made to do it.
From earlier this week, FierceBroadbandWirless quoted Jim Alling at an industry event in Barcelona saying that while carrying the iPhone would be great, it’s just not worth the cost:
“Make no mistake about it: We would love to carry the iPhone. However, we want the economies to be right for us,” said Jim Alling, COO of T-Mobile USA. He made his comments during a wide-ranging discussion that featured executives from T-Mobile and MetroPCS during the Morgan Stanley 12th Annual Technology, Media & Telecoms Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
With the MetroPCS merger nearly done, how does this jive with folks there? Pretty well, I’d say according to comments made in August by MetroPCS COO Tom Keys:
“It would be harmful to MetroPCS to have to cut out part of our handset portfolio to accommodate one phone from one provider that the economics could be at risk.”
But the real question is the cost. How much would it really cost T-Mobile to make a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone line? Sounds like it’s costing Spring a bundle:
That was likely a veiled reference to Sprint Nextel which began carrying the iPhone in late 2011 under a four-year, $15.5 billion deal with Apple. The device has substantially driven up Sprint’s device subsidy cost, and the operator has said its iPhone business will not turn a profit until 2015. But Sprint is hoping that selling the iPhone will pay off in the long-term via reduced churn and higher data ARPUs.
I can see why T-Mobile isn’t keen on signing with Apple. T-Mobile says there are 1.5 million unlocked iPhones on it’s network, granted with just GSM coverage for most people, and T-Mobile would love to see more people jump to them (or pick them if they buy an unlocked phone). In Canada, carriers have to unlock phones if asked (the terms vary from being on contract to being x months into a contract) and AT&T is reportedly unlocking phones when the contract is up, which makes shopping around for a contract much, much easier.
I have to wonder if T-Mobile (and MetroPCS) might just be in the vanguard of carriers who don’t feel like selling their souls (or eating into profits) is worth the cost of the next must-have phone. I doubt Apple is worried, but if carriers stop fighting over the chance to carry iPhones, that should be.