This time the rumors that the iPhone will be sold by Verizon Wireless sometime around the end of the year must be true.
On Monday, anonymous sources told the Wall Street Journal that there were two new iPhones in the works, including one for the Verizon Wireless network. Now, there’s additional unnamed people leaking information to the publication that defends AT&T’s network quality, saying that the second-largest operator has taken drastic measures to prevent dropped calls. Not only that, but AT&T (NYSE: T) is quoted as saying that it believes any rival that picks up Apple’s smartphone for the first time will experience the same growing pains.
Is it a coincidence? No one knows for sure, but the back-and-forth publicity stunts in the WSJ hint that the battle for the iPhone subscriber is heating up for the first time in U.S.
Never before have we known what it’s like to have the iPhone available on multiple networks here. Since the first iPhone rolled out in 2007, AT&T has had a firm grasp on its exclusivity. Now, analysts and these unnamed sources are saying that one of two upcoming iPhones will be slated for Verizon Wireless and will come out closer to the end of the year. The other one will be released in July, which is the typical timing for a new iPhone release (and in this case, will likely still be an exclusive to AT&T).
But if today’s article in the WSJ is any indication, AT&T is afraid that consumers, who have heard horror stories from their friends about dropped calls and connection difficulties, will hold out and wait for the Verizon Wireless version later this year. Instead, AT&T wants you to know that it is doing everything it can to improve the network experience, including tapping Apple’s expertise on the phone.
According to people familiar with the situation, in mid-December, AT&T executives set up a 100-day plan to dramatically improve the company’s network in densely-populated cities, WSJ reports. Since then, AT&T has added new spectrum to better handle traffic, repositioned antennas to improve reception and wired more neighborhood cell towers with faster connections. AT&T routinely says that its network handles more data than any other in the world. This year, it will spend $2 billion more on building twice as much capacity as it did last year. Help also came on the handset side. AT&T provided a “crash course” in wireless engineering to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) designers to help limit the load that iPhones put on the network.
AT&T’s problems have been almost comical at times. Verizon Wireless launched a very successful ad campaign around AT&T’s coverage flaws with the phrase, “there’s a map for that,” and AT&T lost a lawsuit over it. AT&T launched an iPhone app that let’s you mark the spot, where you dropped a call. More solid solutions came as recently as last week when AT&T said it was launching a femtocell in April that allows you to install a mini-cell tower in your house to receive better coverage.
While this is likely all good news for consumers, as we’ve cautioned before, don’t look to as iPhone competition as the end to all of your problems. In Europe, where exclusives have pretty much vanished, there have been two noticeable trends: First, increased competition has not translated into lower prices. In fact, some carriers even charged more, and competition did not lead to better network coverage.