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AT&T hopes for iPhone to be synonymous with the company in five year exclusive

Apple’s iPhone is arguably this year’s most hotly anticipated consumer device. AT&T already accelerated its plans to rebrand the Cingular properties in preparation of the iPhone’s arrival – and apparently, its efforts may be well placed as the iPhone could be an AT&T-exclusive for five years, according to a USA Today story.

Being an AT&T-exclusive means that the iPhone will remain a GSM phone, leaving it clearly out of reach for CDMA wireless users. Verizon Wireless and Sprint are both CDMA shops, and customers of those carriers who wish to get the iPhone will have no other choice but to make the move to AT&T.

T-Mobile is another GSM carrier in the U.S., and its network would likely be able to support the iPhone’s calling features, but AT&T will be the only company authorized to officially sell and market the iPhone. Furthermore, all iPhone’s sold through AT&T will be ‘locked’ to the network, disallowing those phones to connect to another carrier even with a different SIM card.

"I'm glad we have (the iPhone) in our bag," says Stan Sigman, CEO of wireless at AT&T. "Others will try to match it, but for a period of time, they're going to be playing catch-up."

According to data collected by Forrester Research, about 78 percent of U.S. households have a mobile phone. Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester, believes anybody who wants a cell phone has one. The other 22 percent without cell phones, he says, "are the very young, the very old and the economically challenged" – none of which are target markets for the iPhone.

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By zombiexl on 5/23/2007 8:00:14 AM , Rating: 3
Furthermore, all iPhone’s sold through AT&T will be ‘locked’ to the network, disallowing those phones to connect to another carrier even with a different SIM card.

Wasn't a law passed recently (less than a year ago) that allowed users the right to unlock any cell phoen they bought?

By Master Kenobi on 5/23/2007 8:01:55 AM , Rating: 2
I don't recall hearing about that. I recall allowing you to move phone numbers, but not devices.

By GreenEnvt on 5/23/2007 8:14:42 AM , Rating: 2
In addition to the reply below about it being legal to unlock cell phones now, there is also this proposal:

By Marcus Yam on 5/23/2007 8:08:43 AM , Rating: 3
Good memory.

But will the average consumer purchase an iPhone through AT&T, cancel the contract, potentially pay to have it unlocked, and switch to T-Mobile?

Unlikely. Seems that the move to keep iPhone on AT&T is to keep it GSM-only, meaning no iPhone for Verizon...which is probably all AT&T cares about.

By GreenEnvt on 5/23/2007 8:11:50 AM , Rating: 2
So phone companies can still lock them, but you are allowed to get them unlocked if you choose.
I'm sure unlocked iphones will show up on ebay and tigerdirect before too long.

By GoatMonkey on 5/23/2007 8:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
If you did do all that I think you might lose some of the features. It seems like I read that AT&T had to do some upgrades to get the voice mail system that allows you to skip around for example.

By ninjit on 5/23/2007 11:26:08 AM , Rating: 2
If you call them, they are obligated to give you the unlock codes.

I've done it a couple of times with new phones, so that I could buy prepaid SIM cards in europe, and not pay cingular's ridiculous international roaming fees.

They don't really care if you unlock the phone or not, as long as you keep paying the monthly bills on your contract (or the hefty termination fee to get out of it - but I can't honestly see people going that route just to get an iPhone they can use with T-mobile).

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