T-Mobile subscribers may finally get their shot at the iPhone, according to one analyst.
The carrier could "announce official iPhone distribution in early 2013," according to Morgan Stanley analyst Nick Delfas. The analyst provided no further details but said that such a deal would add another one to two million buyers of the iPhone 5 in the first quarter.
T-Mobile is the only one of the four major U.S. carriers without custody of the iPhone. In May, the company announced that it would spend $4 billion to ramp up its 4G LTE network, giving it the ability to carry the iPhone 5 in more markets.
T-Mobile also revealed earlier this month that it plans to merge with MetroPCS. MetroPCS has been busy growing its own LTE network. T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray recently told CNET that he thinks the merger will help boost the reach of LTE to its customers.
Even without T-Mobile's contribution, iPhone shipments in next year's first quarter are likely to surpass those of the current quarter. But Delfas sees the T-Mobile relationship "as another possible catalyst" toward higher sales.
Buoyed by the launch of the iPhone 5, Apple may have sold 25 million iPhones in the third quarter, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in an investors note yesterday. But she admitted this estimate is a conservative one, so the actual numbers may prove higher.
For all of 2013, Huberty paints two scenarios for the iPhone.
In the more bullish outlook, Apple continues its dominance of the market, and with increased growth in China, sells as many as 247 million iPhones. In a more bearish environment, Apple is unable to cut a deal with China Mobile to sell the iPhone 5 -- one factor that leads to iPhone sales of only 180 million for the year.
Correction at 7:35 a.m. PT: A reference to Nick Delfas' affiliation has been fixed.