T-Mobile iPhone 5, Turnaround Not Happening in 2012: TBR Analyst

T-Mobile has hinted that its upcoming LTE network will be capable of supporting an iPhone, giving subscribers hopes for an iPhone 5. A new TBR report, however, says T-Mobile's current situation won't brighten until early 2013, at which time an iPhone will be possible.

T-Mobile's 2012 isn't likely to get any better, says a new report from Technology Business Research, particularly since the carrier's hinted-at iPhone isn't likely to be a reality until sometime in 2013.

Indeed, 2013, the report suggests, is when several important puzzle pieces will come together for the nation's fourth-largest but regrettably iPhone-free carrier, and things will begin to look up.

"The first-quarter 2013 deployment of LTE [Long-Term Evolution] and refarm of the operator's GSM spectrum will provide sufficient network improvements that will help retain subscribers and slow revenue loss," TBR analyst Eric Costa wrote in the 2012 report.

In February, T-Mobile announced its plans for a $4 billion "network modernization" strategy, made possible by the $4 billion and allotment of spectrum that it received from AT&T's failed bid to purchase the smaller carrier. Part of this process includes "refarming," in the parlance of the industry, 1,900MHz PCS spectrum current used for GSM into usable spectrum for T-Mobile's Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) 4G services.

In March, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray blogged, "A nice side benefit of the refarming effort is that our 4G network will be compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone."

The comment offered hope that T-Mobile might be privy to the device whose absence has been cited, by Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, as the No. 1 reason subscribers leave a carrier. But while T-Mobile subscribers may someday be offered an iPhone 5, Costa suggests it won't be this year.

"The 1,900MHz refarm will allow for future iPhone access should a deal be signed," Costa wrote in the report. "This should boost data consumption [and revenue for T-Mobile] as iPhone users consume the highest amount of data on average."

While other carriers have used the iPhone-and are doing the same with LTE technology-to attract new customers-Costa added, for T-Mobile they are instead ways to hold on to the customers it already has.

Still, T-Mobile's modernization efforts, said Costa, will allow T-Mobile to "remain competitive with all other Tier 1 operators in 2013."

During the second quarter, T-Mobile's post-paid subscriber base declined by 205,000 subscribers, leading to a 3.3 percent year-over-year decline in revenue.

For the remainder of 2012, said Costa, "there is no end in sight, as T-Mobile will continue to lose subscribers … due to the upcoming iPhone launch that the operator will miss out on."

Adding to the changes the carrier is undergoing, in June, T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm abruptly resigned and COO Jim Alling took over as interim CEO.

"T-Mobile is in the middle of a company-wide restructuring, including a new postpaid strategy, new leadership and a network modernization project," wrote Costa. These, he added, "will not have time to positively influence the company's results in [the second half of 2012]."

While Apple has made no mention of its next iPhone's launch cycle, tech site iMore, citing sources, has reported that the Apple will introduce the iPhone 5, as well as a smaller tablet, dubbed the iPad mini, Sept. 12 and begin shipping the device Sept. 21.