By Nikola Rotscheroth
T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom's U.S. mobile arm, sees its growth of
around 1 million new customers per quarter continuing at this pace in
2005 and is preparing new "third-generation" mobile services for 2007.
As there are many more Americans who have not used a mobile phone than
there are Europeans or Japanese, T-Mobile USA, the country's smallest
national operator, believes there is still plenty of room for it to
expand, its head told journalists.
"I believe we can keep up this speed of growth," said T-Mobile USA
Chief Executive Robert Dotson. T-Mobile USA won 957,000 new
subscribers in the first quarter of 2005, to reach 18.3 million.
"We are a growth machine. We have to grow, grow, grow," Dotson said.
The main source of this growth, the operator believes, is people using
their mobiles instead of the fixed-line network to make calls, or
giving up their fixed-line phone entirely -- as 10 to 15 percent of
T-Mobile USA's customers already have.
Since Deutsche Telekom bought the unit, then called VoiceStream
Wireless and a small startup, for a breathtaking $40 billion in 2001,
it has become its main growth engine -- and overtook the domestic
German mobile arm in terms of revenues last year, with 9.3 billion
euros ($11.7 billion).
According to a 10-year business plan it published this year, Deutsche
Telekom expects T-Mobile USA to bring in 43 percent of its mobile
revenue -- more than any other mobile unit including Germany, Britain,
and other European countries.
T-Mobile International CEO Rene Obermann told reporters he was not
worried by the mergers in the United States, which have reduced to
four the number of national mobile operators, leaving T-Mobile USA the
fourth rank by far.
"The fourth rank is a good position," Obermann said, adding that
T-Mobile USA, as part of T-Mobile International with 75 million
subscribers, had bigger purchasing power than any other U.S. operator.
Cingular, a joint venture of Baby Bells SBC and BellSouth, took over
AT&T Wireless last year to become the largest operator, and Sprint
bought Nextel to become the third largest.
No. 2 in the market is Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon
and the world's biggest mobile operator, Vodafone.
3G LAUNCH IN 2007
T-Mobile USA is preparing the launch of new third-generation (3G)
mobile phone services -- which allow video phone calls and music
downloads over mobiles -- in 2007, even though it has yet to make a
formal decision to bid for the necessary spectrum.
"We plan to begin the 3G rollout in the second half of next year and
the first services shall launch in 2007," said Chief Development
Officer Cole Brodman.
T-Mobile International's Obermann cautioned, however, that the
supervisory boards of T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom still had to
approve the group's bidding for the service in an spectrum auction
upcoming in the second quarter of 2006.
Obermann declined to say how much he was ready to spend for the
spectrum -- all over Europe, operators spent around 100 billion euros
for 3G spectrum -- but said license prices had come down in the United
States since the number of national operators has dropped to four from
Dotson ruled out T-Mobile USA buying a regional U.S. mobile operator
to expand into areas where it did not have its own presence yet.
The group, which has earmarked 2.2 billion euros to build its network
in the United States this year, would rather spend on its own network
assets in regions it had identified as interesting, he said.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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