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Sprint to land Apple's iPhone: How wireless carrier dynamics will change

Sprint lands the iPhone 5 and the wireless carrier competitive dynamic changes.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Sprint will reportedly get Apple's iPhone 5 in October and the move has wide ramifications in the wireless carrier pecking order. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sprint will begin selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October. The move will put Sprint's line-up on equal footing with both AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Sprint, the No. 3 carrier, has performed fairly well, improved customer service and landed new customers with a value-oriented pricing approach. The problem for Sprint: AT&T and Verizon had a lock on the iPhone.

Now all of that changes and Sprint is saved. Traffic into Sprint stores will improve and it's possible that the three wireless providers will split iPhone sales. The fallout should be interesting to watch.

Also: CNET cell phone buying guide

Here's a quick view of what this Sprint move means.
  • Verizon Wireless' aim to improve is smartphone mix is in jeopardy. Verizon didn't get the pop from the iPhone 4 that it expected. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone 5, which was thought to turbocharge Verizon's smartphone growth, will arrive late. As a result, Verizon's smartphone mix isn't likely to be 50-50 at the end of the year as planned in January. Sprint entering the iPhone picture changes the equation. Will Sprint split iPhone 5 sales with AT&T and Verizon? After all, AT&T fended off Verizon with iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS sales. In other words, Verizon's iPhone utopia isn't going to happen.
  • AT&T gets more competition. AT&T weathered the Verizon storm well, but Sprint is likely to change the carrier dynamic. The wild card in this competition is whether AT&T can maintain a lock on low-priced iPhones such as the 3GS.
  • Pricing plans will matter more. If the big three carriers have the iPhone, customers will choose the best pricing plans and data caps as a differentiator. Network quality will also matter. Verizon, Sprint and AT&T are likely to move prices lower to grab share. Customer service will also matter. Verizon and Sprint are top dogs on customer service.
  • Sprint becomes much more viable. With the iPhone, Sprint can keep customers, land more family plans and lower churn rates. There are serious questions about Sprint's 4G network plans going forward as the company rolls out its network vision, but the iPhone puts the carrier on much better footing.


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