The rumor...again...is that Apple is working on developing a CDMA version of the iPhone and plans to begin distributing the popular smartphone through Verizon in the near future, ending its exclusivity arrangement with AT&T. The move could benefit Apple and Verizon, but will also be an advantage for existing AT&T customers.
Analysts have been predicting that Apple could dramatically increase iPhone sales by ending exclusivity. Of course, that conclusion doesn't take any extra-sensory perception to arrive at. If you have more or less saturated the market for iPhones at one wireless provider, and you add another--even larger--wireless provider, it makes sense that iPhone sales will increase accordingly.
Verizon has taken some jabs at the iPhone with its campaign for the Android-based Droid smartphone. However, it has directed most of its witty ad campaigns at slamming AT&T's network issues, and has always left the door open to work out a deal with Apple to market the device.
Being the largest wireless provider--with the most 3G network coverage of any wireless provider--in the United States, and providing customers with a choice between two of the hottest smartphones available--the Droid and the iPhone, would be a coup for Verizon. Existing customers will appreciate having options, and prospective customers will be even more likely to select Verizon.
So, where does that leave AT&T? Its fortunes--good, bad, or indifferent--have been tied to the success of the iPhone since its launch back in 2007. The iPhone has been wildly successful, and that has brought customers into the AT&T fold, but AT&T has also faced intense and repeated criticism over the speed and availability of its 3G data network, and issues with dropped calls. The iPhone has been a double-edged sword for AT&T.
AT&T has expanded its smartphone portfolio as well--adding Android-based devices, and announcing plans to add Palm WebOS smartphones later this year, and it is already investing in improving and expanding its network. News of a Verizon iPhone will drive AT&T to double its efforts and make sure its network is prepared to go head-to-head with Verizon, though--a tremendous benefit for existing iPhone users and AT&T customers in general.
AT&T also recently announced plans to roll out its MicroCell femtocell device nationwide. The MicroCell connects to a broadband Internet connection and basically creates a personal 3G network hotspot in a customer's home. Customers that have the MicroCell can ensure a maxed out signal even in areas that AT&T's network doesn't even reach.
In an ideal world, the competitive nature of wireless service in and of itself would be incentive enough for AT&T to push the envelope and fight to deliver superior service. But, the iPhone exclusivity arrangement created a situation where AT&T had a unique edge already. Removing that exclusivity levels the playing field and will force AT&T to be much more aggressive at improving its network infrastructure to compete with Verizon and other wireless providers.
If your business is a Verizon customer, you may soon (finally) have the option of using the Apple iPhone. If your business relies on AT&T, you are in luck. Hopefully, AT&T will soon offer the MicroCell for business customers as well, but in the meantime you will still benefit from AT&T's investment in the network.
Even businesses that aren't Verizon or AT&T wireless customers benefit when the competition is more even and choosing a wireless provider isn't dictated by device exclusivity.