iPhone will be AT&T exclusive

Written by Brett Thomas

May 23, 2007 | 16:12

Tags: #cdma #cingular #gsm #iphone #jobs #wireless

Companies: #apple #att

So many people have been lusting over the iPhone that it's almost obscene. Thanks to the delays between the US and EU, I've already had people begging me to import them one, no matter what the price. Unfortunately, that may be harder than it sounds - the iPhone will be an AT&T exclusive for five years, at least here in the States.

This isn't so much a case of strong market prowess as it is being in the right place at the right time. AT&T is one of only two providers in the US that uses GSM technology. Both Verizon and Sprint (the two other big US Cellular providers) use the older CDMA, which does not have the same technological capabilities as GSM. Most of the rest of the world, including the EU, uses GSM.

Of course, AT&T is not letting an opportunity like this slip by - the network is making quite a few alterations to both itself and the iPhone in order to make the most of it. The company will use this opportunity to shed the Cingular moniker, bringing the AT&T name back to wireless for the first time in over a year (the company's previous spinoff, named AT&T Wireless, went bankrupt). AT&T is also committing to building several new towers to improve service in areas where it is not that strong, since it can't rely on Verizon or Sprint towers for a GSM-only phone.

On top of its own internal changes, the company is doing a dastardly US trick to the iPhone - locking it. iPhones purchased in the US will only work on the AT&T network, regardless of what SIM card is placed in them. This technique has been used commonly in the past to protect an "exclusive" phone, such as when the Motorola RAZR first hit. It will also prevent any exports of the phone to Europe, at least until someone goes firmware hacking. And at the expected $600 USD a pop with contract, that may be a while before someone is willing to risk turning it into a paperweight for the sake of science.

There is no word on whether European consumers will have to face similar struggles once the iPhone launches in the EU, but odds are doubtful. Problems like brand-locking are more of a US/Japan tactic, where cell-phone competition is limited due to the high costs of entry and the governments are unwilling to intervene.

Do you have a thought on the news? Are you annoyed that your friend in the US won't be able to send you one? Tell us about your gripes with all of this in our forums.
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