• Exec Suggests AT&T iPhone Exclusivity in US May End Soon

    AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega, in a conference call quoted by Computerworld, alluded to the end of AT&T's deal with Apple for exclusive rights as the iPhone carrier, a reference that many observers are seizing upon as a suggestion that there could soon be additional service providers for the device in the US.

    In a question-and-answer session, de la Vega said "[w]e have a legacy of having a great portfolio...that will continue after the iPhone is no longer exclusive to us." Somewhat downplaying its third-quarter results that showed 3.2 million iPhone activations - of which nearly 40 percent were customers who were new to AT&T - de la Vega said that though the iPhone has been a "good source of new gross [subscribers] for us," the new iPhone users only made up only a third of the total from all devices. AT&T has has 81.6 million subscribers in the US.

    In the Computerworld piece, de la Vega was quoted as upbeat about the future development of AT&T's high-speed network:
    "Even if we lose exclusivity [of the iPhone], we will be the only carrier with HSPA 7.2 [a network specification being deployed at AT&T] and [new devices] will work on our network faster," de la Vega said. "I feel as strongly as ever [about] the capability of devices in our lineup and [am] super-excited about the deals with e-readers and personal navigation devices. "

    De la Vega also said AT&T is now working with device manufacturers to build Android phones that will "work best" on the AT&T network. "They are terrific devices and much better on AT&T than on anybody else's network."
    There have been rumors have for some time that Apple is considering Verizon Wireless as an additional carrier in the US. These suggestions seem somewhat less plausible in the wake of Verizon's aggressive marketing of its Android-based smartphone.

    In the conference call, de la Vega lavished praise on the iPhone not just as a money maker but as a good product. "We spend an awful lot of time looking for the next great device and the next great technologies, and we think iPhone has set the bar," he said. "All the manufacturers are figuring out how to get close, but iPhone is still the best in the world at this point.

    "I never understated the capability that Apple has...," he continued. "It's all about making it simple for customers to use the services. Others will try to emulate them, but that device by far is the best in terms of ease of use."
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