File part of this story firmly in the rumor category, but it does give us an interesting look at the future of mobile communications. Currently the world is split between two main wireless cellular technologies; GSM, used by AT&T and T-Mobile among others and CDMA, primarily used by Sprint and Verizon. It looks like the next generation of technology beyond the current 3G, the so-called 4G technology will be LTE or Long Term Evolution. LTE is being rolled out currently by Verizon and has acceptance from AT&T, T-Mobile and most other vendors. For the first time ever, we may be on a single standard.
Part of the problem with the iPhone is that it is a GSM technology phone, so it will not currently work with Verizon or Sprint. Apple would have to develop a new handset altogether. If the new generation iPhone is LTE, however, this would open up a world of possibilities as it would be technologically compatible with most vendors. I think at this point we may see the ending of the long standing exclusive arrangement with Apple and AT&T. And if Apple ships the phone before AT&T can roll out it’s LTE network, AT&T stands to loose a great deal of customers. AT&T has been running at least a year behind Verizon technologically for the past several years, so I see a dark future for AT&T. AT&T’s customer satisfaction has also been plummeting lately due to their inability to handle the iPhone as it is today.
Bottom line: Apple and its’s customers stand to be big winners and AT&T stands to be a big looser unless AT&T can latch onto another phone that knocks the iPhone out of the box.