While the likelihood of Sprint getting the iPhone 5 continues to rise, chances of T-Mobile getting the next iPhone seems less and less likely in the wake of a new U.S. anti-trust lawsuit against AT&T trying to acquire T-Mobile.
When discussing the prospect of the iPhone 5 expanding to new carriers in the U.S., Sprint and T-Mobile are often discussed in tandem. However, from the onset of this year, when AT&T announced that it would bid to acquire T-Mobile, the chances of T-Mobile adding the next iPhone to its roster of smartphone offerings have always been much less likely than that of Sprint. Due to the fact that the AT&T/T-Mobile deal has been pending all this time — with no prospect of the deal getting done until late 2011 or beyond — even the T-Mobile executives went out of their way early on to dissuade their own subscribers and the tech media from assuming T-Mobile would be tethered to AT&T soon enough to add the iPhone 5 in time for its 2011 launch.
The iPhone 5 News Blog reported on the poor chance of T-Mobile getting the iPhone 5 back in mid-March, which you can read here.
But if you are a T-Mobile customer holding out hope that the company’s executives were simply blowing smoke to obscure a bombshell announcement that the U.S.’s fourth-largest carrier would be picking up the iPhone 5 this year, your hopes have just officially been dashed. Today, Gizmodo and others have reported that the U.S. Department of Justice will levy an anti-trust lawsuit against AT&T’s attempt to buy T-Mobile, blocking yet another move by the AT&T/Verizon duopoly to dominate the U.S. mobile market.
From Gizmodo: “The US says ‘AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low- priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market.’ Yep, pretty much. AT&T’s efforts just got a hell of a lot harder—the DoJ doesn’t take kindly to monopolistic encroachment, and when the crosshairs are up, they’re rarely lowered. We’re happy to see the feds sticking up for our freedom of choice as consumers—something we don’t see often enough.”
It isn’t impossible for T-Mobile to have forged a separate deal with Apple in the interim to gain the iPhone 5 — with or without a ratified deal with AT&T in place — but that would be highly unlikely, as it could further complicate AT&T and T-Mobile’s merger down the line, considering the importance of the iPhone/Apple deal in such a merger. As a result, the T-Mobile iPhone 5 rumor is most likely dead on arrival.
Another Win for Sprint
As you know, we at the iPhone 5 News Blog herald Sprint as the workin’ man’s mobile carrier, whose existence helps keep mobile carrier costs down for Sprint and non-Sprint subscribers alike. Today’s move by the U.S. DoJ to sue AT&T involves Sprint in a big way, since, if you recall, Sprint filed a brief to the DoJ this year, complaining of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, and warning of its anti-trust and duopolostic possibilities. If you’re unfamiliar with the brief, you should definitely check out the article we did on it here. It includes a link to Sprint’s petition to deny, which is superbly written and argued.
It can be said that Sprint has totally won in this matter, as they got the DoJ to do exactly what they wanted them to do. With Sprint ostensibly getting the iPhone 5 in October, they are now in a very strong position to wield their unlimited data plan to become a contender in the U.S. marketplace with Verizon.
Adding to this reality is a fresh move by Sprint to up its early termination fee to $350, matching rivals AT&T and Verizon. Engadget reports today that “Beginning September 9th, Sprint will charge a $350 termination fee — the same as Verizon and AT&T — that will be pro-rated depended on the number of months left on a subscriber’s contract. The charge is a hefty step-up from its prior fee of $200, clearly signaling to the marketplace that it demands to be seen as a contender.”
While it may not be congruent with Sprint’s usual customer-friendly ethos, this move does signal that the tides may be turning for the embattled U.S. mobile carrier.
Sincere thanks to iPhone 5 reader and contributor Erik, who seeded both of the cited articles in this story. Thanks, Erik!
By Michael Nace