AT&T’s decision to subsidise the new Apple (AAPL) iPhone 3G down to $199 has already paid off — it said last week that it’s selling the new phone twice as fast as it sold the old one. But its restructured deal with Apple could have also landed it another bonus: Longer exclusive distribution rights in the U.S.
In a lengthy profile about AT&T, including an interview with CEO Randall Stephenson, USA Today’s Leslie Cauley reports that the renegotiated deal got AT&T “a year” extension on its exclusive deal, “into 2010,” sourcing the standard people familiar with the matter:
Under the original iPhone contract, Apple had the right to offer the device to other carriers beginning in 2009. If Apple exercised that clause, AT&T would have lost one of its biggest points of leverage with customers — exclusive access to the iPhone.
The problem: That doesn’t gel with previous reports, even Cauley’s, which said AT&T had a five-year exclusive, which would run into 2012 (assuming it began when the iPhone went on sale in June, 2007). See Cauley’s May, 2007 USA Today piece here, and Fred Vogelstein’s Wired piece here. We’ve asked them both for clarification and confirmation, and will update if we hear back.
Either way, don’t expect an iPhone from AT&T’s (T) archrival Verizon Wireless (VZ) until at least 2010… Or 2012.
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