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Telecom tipped to join rush for iPhone

Last updated 00:29 08/05/2008

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Telecom is likely to jump on the iPhone bandwagon within weeks, after Vodafone's decision to sell the phones in New Zealand, an industry analyst says.

Paul Budde doubts Vodafone has an exclusive deal with Apple and says Telecom would probably announce a similar agreement with it soon.

Vodafone has not announced a price for the 8 gigabyte phone in New Zealand but it sells for about US$400 (NZ$515) in the United States.

Mr Budde said the iPhone's spread would have far-reaching consequences for the mobile market. The traditional mobile revenue split, of 90 per cent from voice traffic and 10 per cent from data, would reverse in coming years, he said.

Another analyst said the fact that Vodafone had not said the deal was exclusive indicated it would be open to other operators.

Last month, Telecom hinted the iPhone could be used on its $300 million 850MHz GSM/Edge network, to be introduced in November.

Yesterday, a Telecom spokeswoman said it would not be revealing its plans just yet.

Vodafone would not provide any details of the deal announced late on Tuesday.

Apple introduced its iPhone, a combination cellphone, Internet browser and iPod portable media player, in the US last June.

Nathan Burley, telecommunications analyst for research company Ovum, said Vodafone would probably pay Apple a big chunk of the calling and data revenues it earned from iPhone owners using the Vodafone network.

The revenue share paid to Apple would depend on several factors, including whether Apple would also sell handsets directly into New Zealand or if another mobile operator got rights to sell the iPhone.

Details of agreements between Apple and other mobile network operators are scant, but reports have suggested AT&T, the mobile carrier and exclusive iPhone partner in the US, pays between 15 per cent and 40 per cent of calling and data revenue to Apple, plus a fat margin for handset sales.

Earlier this year talks between Chinese telecommunications company China Mobile and Apple stalled over apparent revenue-sharing differences.

Mr Burley said revenue sharing was unlikely to be a serious obstacle for Vodafone as iPhone users were heavy users and big spenders on data.

Last year, AT&T said much of its 41 per cent jump in profit was thanks to increases in new subscribers, mainly iPhone owners.

There has been a steady flow of iPhones parallel-imported or imported directly from the US into New Zealand since their introduction.

Jens Mueller, managing director of parallel importing company ToshComputers which specialises in Apple products, said in September his company had been selling about 80 iPhones a week.

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Though he would not give current sales figures yesterday, he said the number had increased since September, then stabilised.

iPhone owners had used unauthorised methods to "unlock" the phones so they could be used on Vodafone's GSM network.

Mr Mueller said his company was selling unlocked 16 gigabyte iPhones for $979 including gst and 8 gigabyte unlocked devices for $869. Locked iPhones sell for less.

Apple should unveil the next generation iPhone next month at its Worldwide Development Conference.

 

- The Dominion Post

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