Verizon, T-Mobile Beckon as iPhone Alternatives

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-06-14 Print this article Print

With Verizon, the process is more complex. There currently are no CDMA versions of the iPhone, so there's some necessary engineering that's involved. There will need to be FCC filings, tests, leaks to the media. And there needs to be time to make sure that the Verizon network will support the iPhone's voracious appetite for bandwidth.

Adding to the complexity is the relatively limited availability of CDMA networks worldwide. A Verizon iPhone might not be able to take advantage of the other existing CDMA networks out there, primarily in Iraq, South America and southern India. Furthermore, 3G coverage is also not a given in those areas. 

So why would Apple consider expanding to other carriers after tenaciously maintaining an exclusive deal with AT&T? Mostly because Android phones are starting to eat up market share that Apple wants. The Android phones might not have exactly the same coolness factor that the iPhone has (although some people would say they're cooler), but there's no question that these devices offer capabilities that the iPhone simply can't deliver. Worse, they're selling by the gazillion. This must be driving Apple nuts. 

Adding to the exclusivity problem is that AT&T doesn't have the best reputation as a carrier. Despite the AT&T commercials claiming more 3G coverage than Verizon, the fact is, Verizon still has a substantially larger 3G network. In addition, there's also a belief among some iPhone users that AT&T's service isn't up to par, and iPhone users have long been plagued by dropped calls and poor signal quality. While much of this may not be AT&T's fault, that doesn't matter to users. 

Ultimately, bandwidth is what matters to iPhone buyers. Now that AT&T has imposed bandwidth limits on iPhone users with new accounts, there's a significant disincentive for would-be buyers. Why saddle yourself with an extra hundred bucks or so of broadband fees just to use the device in the manner in which it was intended?

Neither Verizon, which has widespread, but not very fast, 3G nor T-Mobile, which has 3G that's as fast as or faster than Sprint's 4G, but which isn't as widespread, have usage limits. In addition, Verizon is well along with its LTE (Long Term Evolution) implementation, which could bring broadband speeds triple those of Sprint's network.

But really, could it happen? Yes. And it could happen before the end of the year. This is especially true for T-Mobile, where all that's required is an agreement with Apple. T-Mobile, after all, is really just a trade name for Deutsche Telekom, the German carrier that's far larger than either AT&T or Verizon, has a global presence and already carries the iPhone. It would be very difficult for Apple to say no. 

And Verizon has both the reach and the existing bandwidth in the United States to give the iPhone room to grow, something that AT&T really doesn't have now. In addition, both T-Mobile and Verizon are hotbeds of Android activity. Where better to put an iPhone?

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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