T-Mobile USA to soon sell iPhones, cut subsidies: CEO

Deutsche Telekom AG unit T-Mobile USA will start selling the Apple Inc iPhone in about three to four months and will enforce its plan to get rid of cellphone subsidies in a similar timeframe, according to Chief Executive John Legere.

Legere declined to disclose details about the company's agreement with Apple, except to say that T-Mobile USA's timing for selling the smartphone would be sooner rather than later, along with its subsidy elimination plan.

"They're all, I would call them, in three to four months as opposed to six to nine months, Legere told Reuters in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

T-Mobile USA said late last year it would eliminate handset subsidies in 2013 to give customers more flexibility and lower service prices. It said at the same time that it will also sell the iPhone, making it the last U.S. mobile provider to do so.

The company hopes to attract customers from bigger rivals like AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless with the combination of selling iPhones and removing subsidies, which would be a first for the U.S. wireless industry.

The executive said he could possibly increase T-Mobile USA's market share by 5 percent or higher from bigger rivals who still depend on subsidizing phones to give their customers a device discount in exchange for tying them into a two-year contract.

"If the old industry structure chooses to ignore what we do," he said, "That's a potential."

While the company is currently focused on gaining regulatory approval and closing its merger with MetroPCS Communications in the second quarter this year, Legere said that he might not stop there.

For example, the executive said he could explore a relationship with satellite provider Dish Network Corp or a combination with smaller rival Leap Wireless International Inc .

T-Mobile USA is currently seeking approval to merge with smaller wireless rival MetroPCS and analysts have long said that MetroPCS and Leap networks would go well together.

Leap is "one of those things that makes extreme sense for us to look at" Legere said.

Meanwhile Dish, which recently gained approval to use airwaves it bought for a wireless service, has said that it is looking at options including a network sharing partnership with another U.S. wireless carrier. {ID:nL1E9C805E]

Analysts have said that they see Sprint Nextel Corp or T-Mobile USA as the most likely partners for Dish.

Legere said that he has not had talks with Dish, but when asked if he would consider a partnership with the satellite company he said: "The answer is obviously yes."

"They'd be interesting for us to talk to and we'd be fascinating for them," he added.

While Dish announced today that it will battle Sprint to buy another smaller wireless company, Clearwire Corp , some analysts have said that it is unlikely to succeed in that bid so could still need a wireless network partner.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Matt Driskill)