Sprint and Verizon aren’t the only new carriers to add the iPhone to their repertoire this year, but the newest addition to the iPhone stable is a relatively small-time player.
It’s C Spire, formerly Cellular South, that has added the iPhone 4S to its lineup. The company placed the phone on its website today along with a press release. The addition makes C Spire only the fourth carrier in the U.S. to acquire the iPhone. At this time last year, there was only one: AT&T.
Verizon acquired the iPhone 4 in the spring and Sprint was added for the iPhone 4S in the early part of October. C Spire is a regional carrier in the southern U.S., and it’s interesting that it has picked up Apple’s latest smartphone, given that T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, still hasn’t.
According to a story from MacRumors, C Spire operates a CDMA network, much the same as what Verizon and Sprint use. It’s a regional carrier based in Mississippi, and focuses on that state, as well as parts of Georgia and the Florida panhandle. It's also the largest private wireless telecom provider in the country, servicing about 875,000 customers.
What’s especially interesting about this announcement is that it seems to signal a change in the way the iPhone is being handled by Apple. Up until just a few short months ago, the iPhone was exclusive to just one carrier: AT&T. Since then, Verizon and Sprint both have been added to the stable, with brand new iPhones to accommodate them, since both those carriers use CDMA cellular radios for their networks, while AT&T uses a GSM radio.
Despite rumors, T-Mobile wasn’t added to the list of iPhone carriers with the release of the iPhone 4. This has been lamented by T-Mobile since the announcement of Sprint getting the iPhone 4S a few weeks ago. T-Mobile has also implied that while it would love to have the iPhone on its network, Apple has refused the company. The fact that C Spire was able to secure Apple’s device, while the fourth-largest carrier in the country hasn’t, suggests that T-Mobile hasn’t been willing to agree to Apple’s terms.
What exactly those terms were isn’t clear. But they’re not insurmountable, clearly, as C Spire was able to strike some kind of deal with Apple. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is pushing its Android devices hard, hoping that Samsung, Apple’s biggest competitor, can help it through being the only major carrier without the iPhone 4. Samsung’s smartphone numbers are expected to have been pretty high during the final quarter of fiscal 2011, which ended on Sept. 30.
The iPhone 4S’ 4 million sales is another reason that every carrier has been fighting to carry the iPhone. T-Mobile will have to come up with some very compelling reasons to push users toward Android devices during the next year.