John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

17 Percent of Verizon Customers Would Upgrade to iPhone

jobs_canyouhearmenow-250x205jpgAT&T’s iPhone-exclusivity deal hasn’t yet expired; nor has Apple announced plans to sell the device through a second U.S. carrier. But that’s not stopping analysts from speculating about what might happen when it does.

Riffing on rumors of a Verizon (VZ) iPhone, Morgan Stanley (MS) analyst Katy Huberty theorizes in a research note this morning that given the opportunity, nearly 17 percent of the carrier’s customers would upgrade to an iPhone (see chart below; click charts to enlarge).

“According to our [Alphawise U.S. consumer iPhone survey], there is substantial pent up iPhone demand within the Verizon installed base as 16.8 percent of Verizon subscribers said they are ‘very likely’ to purchase an iPhone if offered on the Verizon Network,” Huberty writes.

“This 16.8 percent is higher than AT&T subscriber’s 14.6 percent extreme interest in the current AT&T iPhone,” Huberty elaborates, “and well above the overall iPhone extreme interest of 7.5 percent.”

Assuming Verizon does add the iPhone to its smartphone lineup and that most of its subscribers who said they were “very likely” to purchase the device do so over a two-year period, Huberty figures Verizon stands to sell about seven million to eight million iPhones annually.

Interestingly, Huberty’s forecast for Phone demand at Verizon does not assume sizable subscriber losses at AT&T. In her view, the end of the carrier’s iPhone-exclusivity deal won’t be the blow some observers claim. AT&T (T) and Apple (AAPL) will obviously remain partners, she says.

In markets where the iPhone has gone from single-carrier to multiple-carrier distribution–France, for example–the carrier that lost exclusivity hasn’t suffered much at all. Beyond this, there’s the issue of early-termination fees, which will make it difficult for current AT&T iPhone users to flee. Says Huberty:

  • 60 percent of the iPhone base is locked until 2H11/1Q12. An iPhone refresh could bring a new wave of subs to AT&T and extend the lock-down of those who upgrade. 80 percent of AT&T’s postpaid subs are sticky customers (70 percent are on a Family Plan (FP); 40 percent on business discounts).
  • For current subs, the Early Termination Fee (ETF) is $175 falling $5/mo for the term of the contract; for new smartphone subs it’s $325, falling by $10/mo. Every line on a FP has a contract/ETF of its own. In addition, customers would have to pay for a new device if switching carriers.

One final point: Huberty sees Apple shares hitting $400 sometime in 2011. Why? “The market underestimates the earnings power of Apple’s mobile Internet devices,” she wrote. “We view the combination of new product launches, broader distribution [carrier, international, enterprise], more attractive pricing and strong upgrade rates as the key demand drivers over the next two years.”

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