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iPhone exclusivity – a step closer to operator freedom?

Many of us have now lived with our iPhone being locked to just one mobile operator, AT&T in the US and O2 in the UK, but there are signs in the market that a change is around the corner, and that the iPhone will be shared across multiple networks in countries where it so far has been tied to exclusive network deals.

In some countries, such as France, the competition authorities stepped in straight away and declined any exclusive network deals for the iPhone, forcing Apple to share the iPhone love across all mobile network operators. Since then we have seen additional operators getting iPhone deals in the Scandinavian market, and if latest rumors are true, a change might be coming in the UK as well.

Recent reports from amongst other Theregister.co.uk indicates that T-Mobile might be close to getting a deal on the iPhone 3G as Apple is apparently now keen on getting the iPhone out to as many people as possible. As Apple realises that the people who buys the iPhone are loyal to Apple and not to the operator, it has clearly opened their eyes to the opportunity of increasing their marketshare through healthy mobile operator competition. For T-Mobile, struggling as the number 4 network in the UK, a deal with Apple for the iPhone 3G might be just what they need, and likely we could see improved deals for users as another network will go head to head with O2. It is important to note though that the possible deal only covers the iPhone 3G and not the upgraded iPhone 3GS, which for now remains exclusive to O2. If there are any truth to the these rumors then it might well be that more than one other network could receive iPhone deals in both the UK and the US.

Although AT&T are arguing their case that exclusive mobile deals are good for the consumer by making new and more advanced handsets available at a lower cost by allowing the producer and the network to share some of the risk, the US Senate is still not sold on their argument, and neither am I. Lets face it, they are making that argument because they know they made a big scoop to get the exclusive deal with Apple, and it is ludacris to argue that the consumer is better off by having one distributor of a product than many.Hopefully we will see competition authorities in both the US and UK put an end to competition restraining exclusive deals.

We look forward to following the developments of these stories going forward, and hopefully the end to exclusive deals are getting closer.

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