Gene Munster, senior research analyst with Piper Jaffrey, predicts that the iPhone will be available through multiple cell carriers in the United States beginning in 2010.
Munster says that multiple carriers will be a boon to Apple. He points to France as an example. In that country, the iPhone is available through several carriers—the result is 40 percent market share, a higher percentage than Apple enjoys in the United States, where the iPhone is limited only to AT&T’s network. Apple historically refreshes the iPhone in the summer months, so Munster’s prediction would be consistent with Apple’s product cycle.
One limiting factor of the iPhone’s distribution by multiple carriers in the U.S. may be the technology the iPhone uses to communicate with cellular networks. Right now, AT&T operates the largest network in the United States that’s compatible with the iPhone. AT&T’s biggest rival, Verizon Wireless, uses an incompatible wireless networking technology.
Verizon has announced plans to transition to a faster “4G” system called LTE beginning in 2010, however. Apple could either re-engineer the iPhone to work with Verizon’s existing network or make a model designed to support LTE. Verizon Wireless’ transition to LTE will happen in stages, however, and may take several years before it enjoys the same nationwide coverage Verizon Wireless has with its current network.
(Hat tip: The Loop)