In this paper, a detailed analysis of the dispersion characteristics of metamaterial transmission lines, based on the lumped element T-circuit model is carried out. One of the main relevant characteristics of these artificial lines is the possibility to tailor the phase response. This leads to unique properties which are of interest for microwave circuit design, such as bandwidth enhancement or multiband (dual-band) operation, among others. However, it is shown in this paper that, in spite of the larger number of circuit parameters (as compared to conventional lines), there exist intrinsic limitations that may limit the performance of such metamaterial transmission lines under certain conditions. In this paper these limitations are pointed out from an accurate analysis of the phase response and the Foster's reactance theorem [Bell Syst. Tech. 3, 259 (1924)]. From the results of this paper, important guidelines for the design of microwave components based on metamaterial transmission lines are inferred. The fabrication and characterization of different metamaterial transmission lines will corroborate the theoretical results. © 2007 American Institute of Physics.