It has always been assumed that it is a matter of when, not if, Apple would expand the iPhone beyond the confines of AT&T’s network, but we all kind of assumed that Verizon would be the first post-AT&T carrier. In fact, rumors about the iPhone going to Verizon have been circulating for literally years. In a surprising twist, it now seems like T-Mobile is the new front-runner to carry the iPhone when its contract with AT&T ends – or maybe even sooner.
Apple Insider is citing a report from a Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, who is says that T-Mobile – not Verizon- will host the iPhone next, and that it makes a better fit for the phone in terms of technology.
Wu noted that T-Mobile’s 3G service supports the 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz frequencies, compared to AT&T’s 850 MHz and 1900 MHz frequencies. Both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS support 3G at 2100 MHz, which would make it easier to adapt to T-Mobile than to Sprint or Verizon.
“While the general consensus is around Verizon (which we believe will happen eventually), we continue to believe that T-Mobile USA is the most likely candidate given its use of similar cellular technology as AT&T,” Wu told Apple Insider. “Also, we are picking up that T-Mobile views the iPhone as key in winning back lost customers and as such could be more likely to agree to Apple’s terms.”
Most analysts believe that Android’s growth is due in no small part to the lack of competition from Apple outside of AT&T. With Android phones currently outselling the iPhone, Apple needs to expand onto other carriers to compete.
“Our sources also indicate that one of the key reasons why Apple is more open to adding U.S. carriers in 2011 is to attack Android more directly,” Wu wrote. ” Looking at industry data, Android’s wins have been where iPhone isn’t available and that could change dramatically if the iPhone were available on more carriers.”
Apple has an exclusive contract with AT&T until 2012, but there are ways out of it that Apple might consider using as Android continues to gain ground.
Wu expects an announcement of a new iPhone carrier to come as early as this fall or early next year.