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T-Mobile USA talks future, Deutsche Telekom weaning it off lifeline; Clearwire spectrum purchase still in play?

Chris Ziegler

Germany's Deutsche Telekom -- better known in the States as T-Mobile USA's disciplinarian parent -- was out in New York today chatting up its American division's prospects for the future, and execs from both sides of the pond had quite a bit to say. The biggest outstanding concerns for the carrier revolve around revenue and customer churn -- which, let's be honest, are the core benchmarks that any carrier in the world is looking to improve -- and the division's CEO Philipp Humm just announced a series of initiatives to help get those numbers in line. On the churn side, they're "going big with Android" to combat the iPhone, continuing to roll out WiFi calling to alleviate network coverage issues, and tightening up "risk management" issues that have let some bill deadbeats slip through the cracks. Funny to think that non-payment is a big enough issue to be a revenue risk for these guys, but it's true.

Gallery: T-Mobile USA talks future, Deutsche Telekom weaning it off lifeline; Clearwire spectrum purchase still in play? | 68 Photos

Speaking of the iPhone, the company reiterated its stance that delivering the iPhone is in Apple's court -- language not unlike what Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg used to use -- and though the lack of AWS support would certainly be an issue in the short term, things ended up working out for Big Red, right? Apple doesn't seem to have anything to lose by expanding its American carrier footprint now that it's broken out of AT&T exclusivity, so we'll have to see how this one plays out; for now, though, the company intends to continue building out its Android chops (by reintroducing the Sidekick franchise, for example).

On the topic of 4G, Humm and other execs continued driving home the same message they'd been pushing at CES a few days ago, emphasizing that HSPA+ gives them plenty of room to scale (and a richer handset ecosystem than LTE) for the next several years; furthermore, they're convinced they've got enough spectrum holdings to accommodate the network. Longer term, when LTE becomes more of a necessity, the company is exploring both 700MHz and AWS spectrum acquisition options -- plus "potential partners" -- which would tie into renewed rumors this week that T-Mobile's still talking to Clearwire about a possible hookup.

This all ties into the overarching message of the meeting today, which was that Deutsche Telekom wants results from its American outpost -- and they want it without a cash infusion from corporate. To that end, they're targeting revenue growth in 2011 -- in contrast to 2010's declines -- along with improved data revenue, higher smartphone penetration, and lower customer churn, all parlaying into even better numbers in 2012. It's a positive outlook -- and if they can't deliver, we wouldn't be surprised to see an acquisition down the road.

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