Analyst: AT&T’s Exclusive iPhone Contract Could End in June of 2010
A series of comments expressed by Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall on Friday have garnered a fair amount of attention over the weekend. Key among these is Marshall’s claim that AT&T’s exclusive agreement to distribute the iPhone in the U.S. will expire in June 2010, opening the door for other carriers to begin offering the device. Marshall’s comments specifically point to Verizon as a carrier with which Apple would likely look to partner, with rumors of revised iPhone hardware capable of running on Verizon’s network suggesting that a late 2010 launch could be possible.
AT&T’s exclusivity window has been the subject of much discussion since the iPhone’s introduction in mid-2007, with initial reports of the window extending until 2012. Other reports have claimed that the original exclusivity agreement had extended only 2009 but had subsequently been extended until 2010 as part of negotiations surrounding handset subsidies from AT&T. More recently, AT&T has been said to be seeking a further extension of exclusivity into 2011.
One of the questions raised in the move from exclusive to non-exclusive distribution models has been the effect on subsidies paid to Apple by wireless carriers such as AT&T. Marshall pegs the current subsidy paid by AT&T at approximately $450, and includes a shift to a “conservative” subsidy of $300 once other U.S. carriers come onboard. The drop in subsidy, however, would be much more than offset by increased sales volume under a multiple-carrier arrangement, according to Marshall.
For its part, Apple has stated several times over the past six weeks that it has in fact been able to maintain subsidy levels in formerly-exclusive markets that have recently expanded to include multiple carriers.