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Will AT&T Still Win With the iPhone 5?

April 25, 2012

Will AT&T Still Win With the iPhone 5?

By Carl Ford
Partner, Crossfire Media

The earnings are out and Apple continues to show that no matter how much I don’t like its products, they still lead the market.  In discussions with my friends, particularly the ones that bought Apple (News - Alert) when Steve returned, the discussion is more about when will the stock be a short.

The quick answer is not any time soon.

The second answer may be in the way the iPhone5 comes about in the not too distant future.  As Om Malik pointed out, AT&T (News - Alert) has been kicking everyone’s butt with the iPhone in the U.S. The 3+ million new subs that AT&T acquired shows a passion for AT&T that was dismissed in the early forecasting of the transition to competition for the iPhone (News - Alert).

While my network of friends disagree, the point that I want to make is that CDMA requires you hang up calls to look up things; that is just wrong for such a cool phone.

So now comes the question that I do not have an answer for:  when the iPhone 5 comes out what is going to be the experience?  Is the use of separate bearer channels of voice and data a good thing? Shouldn’t the carriers be implementing VoLTE in anticipation of the new iPhone?  Is it deliberate because the carriers are secretly scared of the world being about Apple vs. Android as opposed to AT&T vs. Verizon?

I would say Sprint (News - Alert) as well, but somehow a truly unlimited iPhone is not as compelling as a GSM iPhone.

So will the iPhone 5 on LTE look like the next generation of the GSM or be loaded with compromises of its CDMA sister?

My expectation is that it’s going to be a compromised device.  LTE (News - Alert) is a standardization on technology, but not on radio and we are going to see the implementations vary greatly.  We have constantly covered the logistical problems of delivering small cells at our 4GWE show which has lead us to renaming it the Mobility Tech Conference (because the only ubiquitous network is Wi-Fi and it deserves its own track).

The bottom line may be that we will one day see an iPhone that rejects the carriers altogether and looks to use Wi-Fi for all coverage.  At this point, I believe that it will be Apple vs. Android (and Windows8). Right now what I see is a bit of a ledge that if I were an owner of Apple stock, I would have my downward thresholds set for three percent.  

That’s the funny thing about Apple; you can set such a low threshold since it’s such a beloved stock and if it goes down by three percent you can assume the good will is going.  For the rest of us mere mortals that’s a normal trading channel.  

Getting back to the other channel, of course if the iPhone 5 is not LTE dependent and can navigate the use of software defined radio in a way that shows a process in mobile that Apple has yet to really show, I would say the sky is the limit.  And if one of the company’s carrier friends can stay close enough to make that work with them, a rising tide will raise their boat as well.

We will see when they ship!

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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