I’m a little behind on this, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T’s exclusive deal to sell the iPhone in the U.S. expires next year, and that the carrier is working furiously to get an extension until 2011. The company is selling millions of iPhones a quarter and luring plenty of customers from its rivals, so its interest in remaining the only source of iPhones makes perfect sense. But I can’t wish it well here–I think it’ll be a fabulous day for consumers when iPhones are available from one or more additional carriers.
I’m not engaging in AT&T-bashing here (you can find plenty of that elsewhere on the Web). I just like competition. I think that happy Verizon and Sprint customers shouldn’t have to dump their carrier to get iPhones. I’m hopeful that multiple carriers would mean lower prices for both the handset and the services associated with it. I believe that AT&T would have the greatest possible incentive to fix some of its network problems faster if its goal was to be the best iPhone carrier rather than the only iPhone carrier.
Unfortunately, consumers don’t get a say in the negotiations between AT&T and Apple. The wheeling and dealing will presumably boil down to whether AT&T is willing to wave enough money in Apple’s face to prevent it from striking deals with other carriers. If it does, the iPhone will remain an AT&T exclusive. But I hope that Apple asks for a boatload of money, and that AT&T blinks. And I’m curious to know just how hard it would be for Apple to have an iPhone ready that would run on the Verizon and/or Sprint networks.