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T-Mobile USA putting out feelers for network partnerships?

Chris Ziegler

Deutsche Telekom has made little secret this year of the fact that its American wireless unit is on thin ice; whether that's a result of poor coverage, a failure to keep pace technologically, weak spectrum allocation, or a combination thereof is a source of endless debate, but none of it is stopping T-Mobile USA from pushing forward aggressively with a nationwide 21Mbps HSPA+ rollout in 2010. Of course, network buildouts of that magnitude don't come cheap, and hungry investors are still marching on DT's doorstep asking when they might be able to expect black ink. A couple loose-lipped tipsters to German paper Handelsblatt have said that the next step could very well involve a major partnership with another carrier -- as opposed to an outright acquisition like we've heard before -- possibly with Clearwire, MetroPCS, or AT&T. T-Mobile USA has been famously tight-lipped so far on its 4G plans, instead concentrating on building out a solid 3.75G one, which means that its long-term plans are wide open -- partnering with Clearwire would likely mean aligning itself with WiMAX, while both MetroPCS and AT&T have already committed to LTE. Another possibility apparently being thrown around involves bringing in a financial partner (a sugar daddy, if you will) to shore up the carrier's bottom line, but either way, we suspect this'll all end up deciding the carrier's post-21Mbps strategy.

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