The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T is in negotiations to extend their exclusivity agreement with Apple and their iPhone. According to their sources, the current deal is set to expire in 2010. AT&T is looking for another year.
Apple and AT&T, of course, did not comment specifically on the matter. CEO Randall Stephenson would only say that Apple and AT&T had a multi-year deal. An Apple spokesman declined to comment saying the very illuminating "we have a great relationship with AT&T".
The Wall Street Journal did take out some significant numbers, however. AT&T had added 4.3 million iPhone subscribers in the second half of 2008 about 40% of those were new to AT&T. That comes to 1.72 million new subscribers that might not have come to AT&T had it not been been for the iPhone.
Even if AT&T is unable to secure exclusivity in 2011, it still has the right to the iPhone for another year in the US. That means the iPhone 3.0, which will probably be launched in June, will be exclusive to AT&T. Some had hopes that T-Mobile or other US carriers would also offer the iPhone. Recently, buy.com started selling open iPhones that work on T-Mobile and other GSM carriers in the US and abroad.
I have to wonder if this is the best move for Apple, and more importantly, its customers. Being exclusive to one carrier eliminates a large segment of the population who may want to be iPhone customers. There are a huge swaths of land that AT&T doesn't cover and Verizon, for instance, covers exclusively. In fact, I am soon going to be moving to a place that can barely pick up an AT&T signal. I am also not even one year into my two-year agreement. What is someone in my situation to do?
Here's what I'd like to do: I'd like to get a Cradlepoint mobile 3G to WiFi bridge. Then I could choose the carrier with the best service in my area. I could then use my iPhone or iPod touch to connect to the WiFi of the Cradlepoint at all times. I could then use Skype to send and receive calls. If AT&T decided to cover my area later and came in with a better price I would switch to them. Or, better yet, Sprint's Clear 4G WiMAX towers could be built in my area and I could go to them.
As I've stated before, I think this is the future of mobile communications. That's why I think the telcos are going out of their way to sign people up for large two-year voice contracts.
On that note, Wednesday Apple updated its iPhone 3.0 beta software so that you cannot make calls on Skype over AT&T's wireless network. It isn't hard to see that voice over IP scares the daylights out of the telcos.
This story, "AT&T Pushing Apple for Longer IPhone Exclusive" was originally published by Computerworld.