German mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Debitel has said it plans to offer a EUR600 (USD891) rebate to customers who buy an iPhone from T-Mobile Deutschland but agree to use its wireless service instead, undermining much of T-Mobile’s competitive advantage. Reuters reports that Debitel, which resells airtime it buys from T-Mobile and rivals Vodafone, O2, and E-Plus in Germany, said it has no qualms about paying the difference in price between an unlocked iPhone and one locked to T-Mobile’s network if it means gaining new subscribers. Although T-Mobile had an exclusive deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in Germany, it was ordered by a Hamburg court last week to offer customers an option to buy an unlocked version of the handset that would not require a formal two-year contract and could be used on other German wireless networks. T-Mobile and Apple agreed to comply, but priced the unlocked iPhone at at EUR999 in order to deter consumers from forgoing a contract. An iPhone locked to the T-Mobile network costs EUR399.
In a statement, Debitel said it would begin offering iPhone contracts starting at EUR40 per month for 200 minutes, which is cheaper than T-Mobile’s entry-level package of EUR49 for 100 minutes. ‘We are happy to offer iPhone buyers the freedom of choice that customers are entitled to expect from a service provider,’ said Debitel officer Oliver Steil, adding that customers using Vodafone, E-Plus and O2 networks would get all of Apple’s iPhone services apart from visual voicemail which will continue to function only on T-Mobile’s network.