Rumor Has It: Verizon to Pay for iPhone Semi-Exclusivity

Verizon (s vz) seems poised to get the iPhone (s aapl), but that might be where the buck stops, according to a new Kaufman Bros. analyst note from Shaw Wu to investors posted Monday (via AppleInsider). Wu says Verizon is going to pay extra to make sure that it and AT&T (s t) remain the only U.S. iPhone carriers for now.

We are hearing that (Verizon) does not want iPhone, the hottest selling smartphone, available on T-Mobile USA and/or Sprint and may be willing to pay for exclusivity to itself and AT&T. For these reasons, (Verizon) could be more willing to give in to Apple’s terms.

According to Wu, Apple’s success with the iPhone, which sold 14.1 million last quarter, is what is giving the Mac maker the leverage to negotiate favorable terms with Verizon. It doesn’t hurt that the shine has also reportedly gone off of the Android (s goog) apple at the company, and that it also doesn’t have very high hopes for the future of BlackBerry (s rimm), Wu said in his note.

If Wu is correct and Verizon negotiates such a deal, T-Mobile and Sprint (s s) will have to wait longer still to get on board the iPhone train. Though AT&T gains a competitor in selling Apple’s smartphone, it only gets one, and Verizon picks up the tab for making sure it only has to fight this battle on a single front. No word on how long the new deal could keep the iPhone out of the hands of T-Mobile and Sprint.

The U.S. remains one of the only major markets in which the iPhone still retains its exclusivity, besides China. In Canada and in some countries in Europe, the iPhone is available through every major carrier selling wireless network service. I won’t guess what AT&T originally paid for its U.S. exclusivity, or what Verizon is willing to fork over to keep the field somewhat limited. The price tag for keeping the competitor pool closed probably isn’t anywhere near what AT&T originally paid, since T-Mobile and Sprint together represent fewer subscribers than either AT&T or Verizon alone.

Of course, Apple is keeping silent on all things related to future products, and Verizon had no comment when contacted. What do you think? Are AT&T and Verizon enough, or would you rather just see Apple open things up to everyone the way it’s done elsewhere in the world?

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