ISuppli knows what’s going on with Apple and AT&T. Based upon its analysis of wireless technology deployments, the market research firm predicted today that Apple will keep its exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T when re-negotiation time comes around next June.
“The main reason Apple is likely to stick with AT&T beyond 2010 is the relatively wide usage and growth expected for the HSPA air standard used by the carrier for 3G data,” Francis Sideco, principal analyst for wireless communications at iSuppli said. “FCC investigation notwithstanding, Apple has no reason to move away from its highly successful exclusive deal with AT&T, which has already generated strong growth in iPhone sales and is expected to fuel a continued expansion in the coming years.”
Indeed, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) which represents international GSM/EDGE/WCDMA/HSPA/LTE operators and suppliers says that as of March 31 of this year, there were more than 140 million HSPA subscribers worldwide. The group counts 274 commercial HSPA networks in 115 countries worldwide. An estimated 77% of these have HSDPA speeds of 3.6 Mbps or higher, and 49% have speeds of 7.2 Mbps or higher. These numbers mark a growth of 174% over last year.
But despite the growing popularity of HSPA worldwide, iSuppli has reservations about whether AT&T can still benefit from the iPhone as it gets faster and even more data hungry.
“IPhone users are overloading AT&T’s network with data traffic generated by the download and usage of apps,” Jagdish Rebello, director and principal analyst for iSuppli said. “However, the real problem is that AT&T has not found a way to monetize data traffic generated by the iPhone. With its voice service revenue on the wane, and the company unable to cash in on the increase in data traffic outside of the base data access fee, AT&T is finding it difficult to make the required investments in upgrading its network to support greater bandwidth.”
While AT&T gains a significant amount of new subscribers every quarter, these same subscribers overtax the network and face service interruptions. This has resulted in a subscriber base increasingly vocal in its dissatisfaction.
To fix this situation, AT&T must take back its reputation by showing that the amazing stuff that happens on an iPhone isn’t only Apple’s doing, and that the bad stuff that happens isn’t only AT&T’s doing.
“Wireless carriers will have to develop and implement carefully thought-out business models that also allow them to own the customer experience,” Rebello continued. “Carriers must seek to promote their networks, content, features, and services directly to consumers, rather than try to lure customers solely by touting the devices that are available in their portfolio. Their mantra going forward must be to emphasize services, capabilities and features of their networks.”