Apple Sale of Unlocked iPhone 5s Is a Big Opportunity for T-Mobile

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-12-01 Print this article Print

He’s also apparently unaware that T-Mobile already has 1.5 million iPhone that T-Mobile customers are operating on the slower network. So his reasoning doesn’t hold water.

But does that mean that T-Mobile is ready to announce that the carrier will be selling iPhone 5 devices soon, or ever? The real issue isn’t the speed of T-Mobile’s network which is being built out aggressively. It’s the cost of entry into the iPhone club. Sprint paid something like $20 billion to be allowed to sell iPhones on contract. But Sprint had to go to Softbank to get more money after that.

T-Mobile likely has other things to do with its money besides enter into such a costly agreement. So I’m guessing that T-Mobile probably won’t start selling subsidized iPhones on contract any time soon. But that ignores the pre-paid market.

T-Mobile is already selling pre-paid SIMs for iPhones. The only thing it’s not doing is selling the phones. Signing up as an Apple retailer for pre-paid phones and selling them for full price or nearly full price, as is already being done by other carriers, is not nearly as high a bar to clear. So does this mean that T-Mobile will start selling iPhone 5s as prepaid phones? Who knows? But an analysis of the costs involved demonstrates that it’s a lot cheaper to do that than to use a postpaid plan.

The big question, of course, is what will we see from T-Mobile this week regarding the iPhone? It could be the obvious, which is that T-Mobile is selling SIM cards and accessories for the iPhone 5. This is nothing new, since T-Mobile has been doing this for earlier versions of the iPhone for the last two years to support the 1.5 million iPhone users that are already on T-Mobile’s network. In fact, T-Mobile already has an automated setup for iPhone users just to make it easier.

So if there is going to be some kind of iPhone announcement by T-Mobile during the first week of December 2012, I’m betting that it’s an agreement to sell prepaid iPhones. This is basically a zero-effort change by both Apple and T-Mobile since all it requires is a retail sales agreement. There wouldn’t be any complicated subsidies involved, little if any payment to Apple beyond the cost of the phones and it’s something that is already taking place. So T-Mobile customers can rejoice. They can finally get their iPhones.


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