Deutsche Telekom has decided against selling its Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA unit and will instead work to expand the U.S. wireless unit, the company...

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BERLIN — Deutsche Telekom has decided against selling its Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA unit and will instead work to expand the U.S. wireless unit, the company said yesterday.

“There is no reason for a sale,” CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke was quoted as saying in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

“On the contrary, we are now in the process of preparing for the next step. That includes taking part in the tender for new (wireless) spectrum,” he said in remarks posted on the paper’s Web site ahead of publication today.

“America is and remains a growth engine for us,” Ricke added.

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The company confirmed his comments.

Only last month, Ricke said he was keeping “all options open” regarding the future of T-Mobile USA, sustaining speculation that it could be sold. The speculation focused on the U.S. subsidiary’s lack of a 3G network and entrenched competition from bigger rivals like Sprint and Verizon Communications.

Ricke said then that Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest telephone company, would decide by the end of 2005 how it will proceed with costly investments in a 3G network, either bidding alone or gathering partners for a joint bid to operate one.

“In the United States, we have the opportunity to develop our business in one of the most attractive markets in the world, and that’s why it is not decisive for us that we are for now only fourth in the market,” Ricke was quoted yesterday as saying.

T-Mobile USA had 19.2 million customers as of June 30, compared with 51.6 million customers for Cingular, jointly owned by SBC Communications and BellSouth; 47.4 million for Verizon Wireless; and 26.6 million for Sprint, Bloomberg News reported.

Six out of 10 people in the U.S. have a mobile-phone subscription, compared with nine out of 10 in Germany, leaving more room for customer growth.