Sprint, T-Mobile iPhones Could Follow Quickly on Verizon's Heels

News Analysis: Verizon's introduction of its own version of the Apple iPhone will bring changes to every major U.S. carrier, not just to Verizon and AT&T.

The announcement by Verizon Wireless that the company soon would be selling a CDMA/EVDO version of Apple's popular iPhone has an impact that goes far beyond customers who want an iPhone but don't want AT&T.

Verizon Wireless is expected to sell millions of iPhones once they become available on Feb. 10. According to a number of analyst reports, quite a few of those sales will be to disaffected AT&T users tired of not getting reliable 3G service.

While a move of AT&T users won't necessarily be good for AT&T, it may not be all that bad, either. AT&T has already announced a wide variety of new devices, with more to come. In addition, quite a few of those departing iPhone users will have contracts with AT&T that must be paid off, meaning that AT&T will get money without having to provide service.

AT&T customers who don't move to Verizon will be affected, too, but in a good way. They might find their 3G networks somewhat less heavily loaded and that in turn will mean they'll have a more positive user experience since dropped calls will diminish and 3G connections will be easier to obtain. Things will also get better for AT&T customers as the company continues to expand its 3G network, and launches its LTE network this summer, since at least some customers will migrate to 4G where it's available.

But there are other impacts that go beyond just a move of some customers from AT&T to Verizon Wireless. Speculation is very heavy right now that Sprint is about to announce its own CDMA version of the iPhone. While Sprint won't comment on this, the company does have a major announcement set for Feb. 7 in New York. This could be for an iPhone announcement, but it could also be for something else such as a WebOS tablet.

It's worth noting that the differences between a Verizon Wireless iPhone and a Sprint iPhone would be minimal. Both companies use the same EVDO 3G communications on the same frequencies. Some have suggested that the biggest change required to move from Verizon Wireless to Sprint would be to change the logo. But does this mean that Sprint will actually get the iPhone? It's possible-Apple has gone out of its way to say that the agreement for Verizon to sell the iPhone is non-exclusive.

It's also worth noting that Apple has made the iPhone broadly available to other carriers overseas once a period of exclusivity has ended elsewhere. This probably means that there's no technical reason that Sprint cannot sell an iPhone-all that's really required is an agreement with Apple to do so.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...