The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that Sprint will become the third carrier in the US to offer the iPhone starting in mid October. Sprint will join rivals AT&T and Verizon in selling the most popular handset in the US.
Sprint Nextel Corp. will begin selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October, people familiar with the matter said, closing a huge hole in the No. 3 U.S. carrier’s lineup and giving Apple Inc. another channel for selling its popular phone.
Sprint is the third largest carrier in the US with 52 million subscribers. Verizon has 106 million subscribers and AT&T 99 million.
Sprint’s recent switch from WiMAX to LTE for its future 4G network buildout could have been the final piece in the puzzle to bring the iPhone to its network. Sprint’s current network uses the CDMA standard, same as Verizon, yet when Apple released a CDMA iPhone 4 this year, Sprint was left out of the loop. It’s possible that Apple wanted confirmation that there’s a future for the iPhone on Sprint when fourth generation LTE wireless networks become standard in the US in the next few years. Apple has been actively hiring LTE engineers and testing out LTE technology for possible inclusion in future iPhones.
It’s unclear from WSJ’s report if it’s the current CDMA iPhone 4 that will be offered on Sprint, or if it’s the rumored “new” cheaper iPhone 4 that is supposedly intended for prepaid markets. Both the upcoming iPhone 5 and prepaid iPhone 4 could include a dual-mode GSM/CDMA chip that will allow Apple to sell a true “one phone for one world” phone. CDMA phones do not use SIM cards like GSM phones but instead require networks to give permission to individual phones to connect to the network.