Merrill Lynch: T-Mobile USA may get the iPhone next week by Philip Elmer-DeWitt @FortuneMagazine November 29, 2012, 3:26 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons FORTUNE — It was only last week that Jim Alling, COO of T-Mobile USA, poured cold water on speculation that his company might finally start selling Apple’s AAPL iPhones to its 33 million customers. “Make no mistake about it: We would love to carry the iPhone,” he said at a conference in Barcelona. “However, we want the economies to be right for us.” Now Merrill Lynch’s Scott Craig is out with a note reporting that “speculation is heightening” that Deutsche Telecom DT will announce a deal to bring the iPhone to its U.S. subsidiary at next week’s analysts day (12/6-7). It makes sense. The carrier recently beefed up its iPhone-compatible high-speed HSPA+ network in 10 metropolitan areas, allowing some of the 1.5 million T-Mobile customers already using unlocked iPhones to enjoy something better than GSM download speeds. Moreover, not selling the iPhone has been costing T-Mobile customers. “We recognize that it has been a point of churn for us,” Alling said last week. Merrill Lynch’s Craig points out that cutting a deal with the fourth largest U.S. carrier would give Apple access to 98% of the U.S. post-paid market and 75% of the country’s total mobile subscribers. “While this would be incrementally positive,” he writes, “any financial impact would be limited.” He estimates that a T-Mobile deal would add about 4 million iPhones to his current estimate of 179 million sold in calendar 2013, boosting Apple’s top line (revenue) by 1% and its bottom line (earnings per share) by 2%. T-Mobile would have had the iPhone last year if the U.S. Dept. of Justice hadn’t opposed AT&T T proposed acquisition of the company on antitrust grounds.