Report: T-Mobile in talks with Harbinger for 4G play

Lacking a clear 4G strategy in the U.S., Deutsche Telekom is considering a partnership with Harbinger Capital Partners by making its T-Mobile USA subsidiary a wholesale customer of the firm's proposed nationwide LTE network, says a report in the Financial Times.

The report, which cites unnamed sources, said DT has held talks with Harbinger over the network but nothing is set in stone. Harbinger's plans include building a nationwide, wholesale LTE network that uses both terrestrial and MSS spectrum from satellite operator SkyTerra resulting from Harbinger's merger with the provider.

Representatives from Harbinger and Deutsche Telekom declined to comment to sister publication FierceWireless.

Such a deal could give T-Mobile a way to catch up to AT&T and Verizon, which are building out LTE networks using 700 MHZ spectrum. T-Mobile holds AWS spectrum licenses and is deploying HSPA+ technology, which it hopes to have deployed across the breadth of its network by year-end. The deal could also give Harbinger a valuable, revenue-generating customer from the start. Harbinger confirmed last week that it had tapped Sanjiv Ahuja, the former CEO of France Telecom's Orange wireless unit, to run the wireless venture.

T-Mobile has been searching for a 4G play. In March, T-Mobile USA CEO Robert Dotson confirmed that the carrier had talked with Clearwire and various cable companies about a possible joint venture to enhance the company's spectrum position. Dotson said that T-Mobile, the nation's No. 4 carrier, will not be counting on the FCC's national broadband plan to fulfill its spectrum needs.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann defended T-Mobile USA's performance at the German company's annual meeting. He said he is not "fully satisfied" with its U.S. performance, but also said DT is not giving up on the U.S. market. "After all, it is making us a great deal of money," he said. T-Mobile in the U.S. has focused on new unlimited plans, adding smartphones based on Google's Android platform and on building out and upgrading its 3G network, but has seen its postpaid subscriber growth slow.

For more:
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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