T-Mobile launches iPhone trade-in program to encourage switchers

To build buzz and hike sales of its anticipated April 12 launch of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5, T-Mobile USA is launching an iPhone trade-in program aimed at encouraging existing iPhone users to switch to T-Mobile's network.

For those customers who bring in their existing iPhones, T-Mobile said it would eliminate the $99 fee for its iPhone 5. And, depending on the trade-in value of the customer's iPhone, T-Mobile said it would also issue up to $120 in credit that customers could apply to their monthly service bill, device payments or the purchase of accessories or another device.

Normally the iPhone 5 under T-Mobile's new no-contract "Simple Choice" plans costs $99 upfront with payments of $20 per month for 24 months (customers can also buy the phone outright).

T-Mobile's promotion, which runs through Father's Day on June 16, is also notable because of the more than 2 million unlocked iPhones it says are currently on its network. The carrier is looking to hold on to as many of those customers as possible, many of whom likely have the iPhone 4 or 4S.

"It really is the simplest and most affordable way to get into an iPhone 5," Andrew Sherrard, senior vice president of marketing for T-Mobile, told AllThingsD. Sherrard said that T-Mobile is pleased with overall iPhone preorders, but declined to say how many the carrier has received so far.

"We're really happy and pleased with how that's going," Sherrard said. "We think we are going to see some good traffic in our stores on Friday and Saturday."

T-Mobile has said its version of the iPhone 5 will support its LTE and HSPA bands, which means that Apple has designed a unique version of the phone for T-Mobile's network. However, the carrier's iPhone 4S and 4 will not carry the same configuration, and as a result those devices will only be available in "select" markets and channels.

T-Mobile's LTE network in now live in seven markets on its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum, including Baltimore; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has said that New York City will be online with LTE by early summer. The carrier plans to cover 100 million POPs with LTE by mid-2013 and 200 million by year-end. Legere has also said that when T-Mobile merges with MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), T-Mobile will be able to deploy 2X20 MHz LTE in 90 percent of the top 25 U.S. markets. (MetroPCS shareholders will vote on the deal April 12.)

T-Mobile already has 225 million POPs covered with its HSPA+42 network, and Legere said there are 140 million POPs now covered by the carrier's refarmed 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. The carrier plans to expand its HSPA network on 1900 MHz to 200 million POPs by the end of the year. Legere said in late March that "right now we have more bandwidth than you know what to do with."

For more:
- see this release
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this NYT article
- see this CNET article

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