Following suit with the rumor mill, AT&T drops hints that the carrier exclusivity with the iPhone will be no more. What doesn’t match up with consumer opinion, is the companies confidence that it won’t be an issue. Apparently they know something we don’t, or they’re doing their best to save face amongst shareholders. I anticipate it’s not the former.

In a recent SEC filing, Wireless chief for AT&T Ralph de la Vega stated that around 80% of customers are locked into family or corporate plans. To switch the entire group, he says, would be a difficult task. Truthfully, he’s correct. Your family plan is (almost always) renewed when just one line upgrades its phone.

The document makes a point of avoiding any mention of the iPhone directly, however previous quarters’ said nothing about exclusivity. Many will say this could be evidence that Apple’s contract is up, or nearing the end. Factually the last mention of the contract was Apple, confirming the agreement to last until 2012. Various rumors of an iPhone coming to Verizon and T-Mobile, have been enough spark to this fiery debate.

Whether or not AT&T will admit the potential catastrophe of losing the deal, they have lined their ducks in a row, to make sure those who are current, stay that way. They recently upped their Early Termination Fee, from $175, to $325. Yea, they (nearly) doubled it.

What is horrendous for AT&T, is ultimately awesome for Apple. Widening their market will only put the full court press on its competitors. I do understand what AT&T is doing, really. They are doing the only thing they can do, which is attempt to ease inevitable concern. We cant’ expect them to come out and say, “Hey guys, we are so freaking screwed”. But the fact that they are saying something says something, don’t you think?

  • thefallen

    As an AT&T employee I can say that ultimately, if it so happens that they make iPhones for Verizon and/or T-mobile… yeah… there will be a hype at the beginning with people porting numbers in and out and switching carriers, but in the end I believe it will be just like BlackBerry’s: all major carriers has them, but is up to people to decide which network provider to choose…

  • Tom D

    Actually, when one line is upgraded on a family plan, only that line’s contract date is re-upped. By doing so, though, the family is less likely to split off into 2 or more carriers as it would greatly increase the monthly bill. Though I’m sure AT&T’s retention data suggests greater loyalty by family plan customers, it is still a bit of a gamble when it comes to a device like the iPhone.

  • Rainrose

    If AT&T loses exclusivity of the iPhone, in my opinion, it’s going to be their downfall. I believe it’s the iPhone that’s drawing them lots of customers, and I’m one of them. Wherever the iPhone go, I go…:)

  • Dracossaint

    Thank you god I got my phone through a buddy so I’m techinaly not tied to the contract but thephone is mine cause I paid for it <3

  • justabrake

    If we ( with unlimited data ) will be the big losers here !

  • Gabriel

    Oh my god, AT&T losing iPhone exclusivity, to another carrier? Apple’s contract will be up with AT&T soon? What will AT&T do? “Will they be screwed”? What will I do as an iPhone user? Will my iPhone explode?

    AT&T has been around since 1885, of course that is, through may incarnations of the business, but they will in fact survive a product exclusivity expiration, in fact AT&T will indeed still offer the iPhone even when that “contract” expires. Competition is good, choice is even better . Loyalty is important, especially in this type of business, AT&T will find a way to overcome the “potential catastrophe of losing the deal”.