updated 02:55 pm EDT, Thu March 18, 2010
T-Mobile could trump Verizon for iPhone deal
Deutsche Telekom chief René Obermann in an interview today hinted that T-Mobile USA is hoping to land a deal for the iPhone. The company leader didn't detail how involved T-Mobile might be in talks, if any, but did say to the FT that he hoped to have a deal as soon as late 2010 or 2011. Android would support the network in the meantime.
Apple hasn't commented on the story or any of its advance carrier plans.
While most have expected Verizon to be the first to break AT&T's iPhone exclusive in the US, a T-Mobile version would be theoretically easier to implement, albeit with changes. Apple is well known for having pronounced CDMA "dead" technology and would have to use an entirely different cellular chipset as well as forgo advantages it has had with AT&T, such as simultaneous calls and data. To use Verizon, the iPhone would either have to freeze data use during a call or else wait until 4G is available on both AT&T and Verizon in 2011.
However, while T-Mobile uses HSPA for its 3G like AT&T and most international carriers, it uses a non-standard 1,700MHz frequency that the current iPhone and most cellular chipsets don't currently address. Apple would have to develop a second version, a practice it has traditionally resisted. Chipsets that address four or more HSPA bands have been under development, but whether or not these could be implemented in time is still an unknown.
Obermann regardless faces pressure to act, as T-Mobile's US branch has struggled to add customers even when it had the first Android phones and other high-profile phone deals. AT&T's aggressive upgrade plans also give T-Mobile limited time to seize on frustration with its rival's overcrowded 3G network.