The latest wireless operator to land the
iPhone isn’t T-Mobile USA or U.S. Cellular. It’s nTelos Wireless, a regional
carrier with less than a half million customers.
The company announced today it would
begin selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 on April 20, when it plans to open
stores early at 7 a.m. EDT for customers who want to get their hands on the
NTelos is the second regional operator
to get the iPhone after C Spire Wireless
began selling the device last November.
Apple’s apparent decision to open the
iPhone to smaller operators has been something of a victory for regional carriers,
which have argued that exclusivity agreements like AT&T’s four-year grip on
the iPhone forced their customers to choose between high-profile smartphones
and their preferred provider.
Jim Hyde, president and CEO of nTelos,
said in a statement that the company was “pleased” to be able to
offer the iPhone to its customers.
“iPhone 4S offers an abundance of
new features, and with our industry-leading, nationwide smartphone plans,
customers can now enjoy the nation’s best networks for less,” he said.
The company is selling the iPhone at a
$50 discount from its larger competitors. The 16 GB model of the iPhone 4S
sells for $150, the 32 GB model goes for $250 and the 64 GB model runs at $350.
The iPhone 4 will retail at the cut-rate price of $50.
Customers must sign a new two-year
contract and sign up for a smartphone plan, which begin at $80 per month and
include unlimited data and messaging.
Financial details of the agreement
between nTelos and Apple were not disclosed. Sprint is paying $15.5 billion for
the privilege of selling the device, but its sales volumes are expected to
dwarf those of a carrier the size of nTelos.
Getting the iPhone onto shelves at
regional wireless providers has been a goal of the Rural Cellular Association
(RCA). Steve Berry, RCA’s president and CEO, said at a conference last week
that the trade association has “tried for a long time to get Apple engaged
with our members.”
If nTelos’ iPhone announcement is any
indication, those efforts may be paying off. At the same event, Atlantic
Tele-Network President and CEO Michael Prior said the iPhone “will
continue to make its way through (the RCA’s) membership.”
NTelos had 414,500 customers at the end
of last year. It provides wireless service in Virginia, West Virginia and portions
of Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. It also has a
roaming agreement with Sprint to provide wholesale access to its CDMA EV-DO
network in some of its markets through mid-2015.