No Verizon iPhone Until 2011?

Published on February 9, 2010
by John Paczkowski

Asked about Apple’s relationship with AT&T during a conference call in January, Apple COO Tim Cook described the carrier as “a great partner” and touted its plans to improve the performance of its wireless network.

“In the vast majority of locations, we think that iPhone customers are having a great experience from the research that we have done,” Cook said. “As you know, AT&T has acknowledged that they are having some issues in a few cities and they have very detailed plans to address these. We have reviewed these plans and we have very high confidence they will make significant progress towards fixing them.”

That reiteration of Apple’s (AAPL) support for AT&T (T) and its decision to debut the iPad on the carrier’s network are fueling speculation that AT&T may hold on to its iPhone exclusive far longer than anyone is expecting. Indeed, in a note to clients today, Barclays Capital analyst Vijay Jayant suggests that the arrangement will last through the summer, perhaps to year’s end.

“Launch of Apple’s iPad on AT&T’s network is a vote of confidence in AT&T’s network by the equipment maker,” Jayant writes. “While iPad sales are unlikely to materially impact wireless revenues in the short term, selecting AT&T to launch its second major communications product reflects Apple’s bias for the global GSM platform and the prospects of AT&T’s network capability. Moreover, it could suggest the iPhone exclusivity may continue, at least through the end of 2010.”

That’s great news for AT&T, if it should prove true. And not simply because it gives the company more time to enjoy the benefits of iPhone exclusivity, but because it gives it nearly a year to improve its network before exclusivity expires. And if AT&T manages to do a good job, the carrier’s iPhone subscribers will presumably be less likely to flee for another network first chance they get.

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