AT&T report to SEC hints at end of carrier exclusivity, possible Verizon CDMA iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 04:33
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the rumor that won’t die, but it’s picking up some interesting evidence that might make it that much more valid.

Per the Wall Street Journal and Macworld, wireless carrier AT&T AT&T discussed its exclusivity arrangements at great length in its recent quarterly filing with the Securities Exchange Commission. The filing has sparked speculation not so much for what it said about the iPhone, but what it didn’t say.

When discussing its wireless business, the carrier said it offered a wide range of devices including 18 smartphones. The reason for offering so many phones, the company said, was to reduce “dependence on any single handset.” The reference to the “single handset” has been seen as pointing towards the iPhone, currently the most popular device AT&T offers for sale.

After declaring the company doesn’t depend on one handset, AT&T’s report gets even more suggestive. “As these exclusivity arrangements end,” the report says, “we expect to continue to offer such handsets…[and] do not expect any such terminations to have a material negative impact on our Wireless [sic] segment income.”

Taken together, the comments about dependence on one device and the end of exclusivity sure sound like AT&T may be preparing its investors for a soft landing once the carrier loses control of the iPhone.

While AT&T may be preparing for the end of iPhone exclusivity, Apple is reportedly ramping up production of CDMA chipsets for the iPhone, according to TechCrunch. CDMA is the cellular network standard used by Verizon, while current versions of the iPhone are made for GSM networks. So Apple would to produce a modified iPhone for Verizon, and that could take as long as six months.

Per TechCrunch, anonymous sources that purportedly have deep knowledge of Apple’s supply chain. The report contends that Apple has ordered “millions of units of Qualcomm CDMA chipsets” to produce Verizon-compatible iPhones. The handsets would reportedly be finished by December in time for a January launch.

It’s an old rumor by this point but there may be a nugget of truth to be found here.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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