AT&T has given a hint in its latest 10Q filing to the SEC that the iPhone exclusivity arrangement it has with Apple might be coming to an end soon. What will this mean to the carrier?
Here are some of the highlights from the filing:
"Offering a number of attractive handsets on an exclusive basis distinguishes us from our competitors. As these exclusivity arrangements end, we expect to continue to offer such handsets (based on historical industry practice), and we believe our service plan offerings will help to retain our customers by providing incentives not to move to a new carrier."
"Although exclusivity arrangements are important to us, such arrangements may not provide a competitive advantage over time, as the industry continues to introduce new devices and services."
"Also, while the expiration of any of our current exclusivity arrangements could increase churn and reduce postpaid customer additions, we do not expect any such terminations to have a material negative impact on our Wireless segment income, consolidated operating margin or our cash from operations."
It's pretty clear that people don't like AT&T. On top of that, the iPhone has subjected its network to insane data loads which have caused problems that require massive investment to solve. A big reason for that load has been the unlimited data plans that the company offered. In an attempt to put the brakes on users sucking relentlessly on the data teat, AT&T first tried to educate users, before applying the brakes on new users.
But the iPhone is a huge customer magnet for AT&T, with the iPhone 4 drawing in huge numbers of new customers to the network.
So, what will happen once other networks get their hands on the iPhone?
The way I see it, I can't see losing the iPhone being good for AT&T. Given the kind of feedback I've been getting from customers, I'd bet on there being a rapid evaporation of customers.