Light Reading

Tobacco Country Carrier Beats T-Mobile to iPhone

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Virginian regional carrier Ntelos Inc. (Nasdaq: NTLO) is undercutting larger rivals with its launch of the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4S, which will roam over the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) 3G network nationwide.

The operator said Wednesday that it will offer the CDMA version of the smartphone for US$50 less than the list price on April 20. The iPhone 4S will be available starting at $149.99 for the 16GB model, $249.99 for the 32GB model and $349.99 for the 64GB model. It will sell the iPhone 4 for $49.99.

The operator is offering the phone with a so-called "unlimited" monthly data plan, which is actually throttled after 5GB of downloads, for $79.99, or a $99.99 plan that offers the same deal on data but unlimited talk.

nTelos says it has "over 400,000 retail subscribers based in Virginia, West Virginia and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky." The operator's own CDMA network covers 5.9 million potential customers across its region. Sprint and nTelos have a reciprocal wholesale deal, which nTelos says helped to increase its revenues by 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Why this matters
nTelos' move to get the iPhone is "a multi-million dollar investment" for the carrier, a spokesperson writes in an email. The operator isn't the first regional carrier to get the iPhone -- southern regional carrier C Spire got the iconic device last fall -- but, fourth-ranked nationwide carrier T-Mobile US Inc. is still left wanting the Apple smartphone.

The deal also represents another wholesale win for rural carrier buddy Sprint, which recently said it wanted to take the fight to the cellular "duopolists" -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless . Matt Carter, president of Sprint Wholesale, told The Wall Street Journal that the operator is looking to extend its customer base, and more wholesale deals for the iPhone could be one way to help it do that.

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— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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