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Analyst: AT&T Will Lose iPhone Exclusivity

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Rumors that Apple’s iPhone may soon shutter its exclusive deal with AT&T just got some expert support. Gene Munster, a senior analyst for Piper Jaffray, stated in a recent investors report that the company predicts Apple could open its iPhone product to additional U.S. carriers sometime next summer.
 
In the report, Munster mentioned how Apple gained in market share when it switched from an exclusivity model with French carrier Orange to a multi-carrier model, and that this could propel the decision.
 
Nielsen’s Roger Entner, svp- research and insights, Nielsen Telecom Practice, said that while he doubts Munster had access to any privileged information regarding the deal, the change to a multi-user model is highly probable.
 
“There is now about three years of exclusivity around the iPhone,” said Entner. “That is a longer [timeframe] than any other device before. It’s only logical that at one point in time it would expire.”
 
The main question then is not necessarily when the exclusivity will end but what effect its cessation will have on AT&T in the market.
 
“[AT&T] has to prepare for that day when exclusivity goes away—and they have been. They know much better than you and me and Gene when the exclusivity will run out,” Entner said. “It just makes a point that AT&T can no longer rely on having over three-quarters of its growth come from the iPhone. It really has to strengthen the other things that are very valuable about AT&T to make [consumers] choose them for other reasons besides just the iPhone.”
 
According to Nielsen data [http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/when-choosing-a-carrier-does-the-iphone-really-matter/], as recently reported by Entner, economic factors held most sway over which carrier consumers chose in Q1 2009. Price ranked as No. 1, followed by family plans, payment options, and free in-network calling. The ability to have a specific mobile phone, such as the iPhone or other carrier exclusive models, came in further down the list at No.7.