A handful of regional and rural wireless operators have signed distribution deals with Apple for the iPhone, with plans to sell the iconic device at a significant discount over the Big Three.
nTelos Wireless of Virginia; Appalachian Wireless of Kentucky; Alaska Communications; Matanuska Telephone Association and GCI of Alaska will all start selling the iPhone on April 20, charging about $50 less than the major carriers do, with a two-year service contract.
Wisconsin's Cellcom also said that the iPhone will be "coming soon," but didn't release any details.
For smaller carriers, being able to offer the top smartphone is a competitive necessity at this point.
"Adding the amazing new iPhone closes the competitive gap on devices, and for the first time, gives consumers an unlimited and uncompromising value alternative," said Jim Hyde, president and CEO for nTelos Wireless. "Now the iPhone will be available to wireless consumers that want more for their money, without having to sacrifice nationwide coverage and service."
Until now though, smaller carriers have been largely incapable of supporting the phone. For one thing, the iPhone is an expensive proposition to subsidize: Each gadget costs a carrier around $600. However, a combination of data plan revenue, value-added services and accessories can help a carrier recoup the investment sooner rather than later, provided that they have the capital investment resources, and the network infrastructure in place to support heavy data usage. Many rural carriers have been busy ensuring both.
"The opportunity to add the iPhone is a testament to the quality network and service experience that nTelos delivers." said Hyde. "It’s also a direct result of the multi-million dollar investments we’ve made in recent years in network infrastructure, retail stores, and service enhancements."
The same is true for GCI.
"We have invested over $2 billion to bring the latest communication technology to Alaska," said GCI president and CEO Ron Duncan. "From Ketchikan to Kotzebue and everywhere in between, our customers can now use iPhone on the largest and fastest network in the state."