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Leveling the Playing Field: the Rural iPhone (Alaska telco mention)

The iPhone's screen when a call is in progress...
The iPhone's screen when a call is in progress, showing the FaceTime button (middle of bottom row). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Maisie Ramsay Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It took more than four years for the iPhone to land at a regional provider.

Between 2007 and 2011, when Mississippi-based C Spire Wireless began selling the iPhone, the popular smartphone was the purview of top-tier providers.

Even after C Spire became the first regional provider to sell the iPhone last November, the device seemed to be out of reach for smaller operators, and its absence had a noticeable impact on regional providers.

Alaska’s General Communications, Inc. (GCI) saw a slowdown in its subscriber growth when AT&T, its only current national competitor in the state, got the iPhone.

"We continued to see subscriber growth, but it was not nearly at the same rate we estimated AT&T's to be," says Maureen Moore, vice president of consumer services at GCI. "Had AT&T not had an exclusive on the iPhone, we would have tried to get it as soon as possible...if you didn't have the iPhone, you had to be looking at other ways to grow subscribers."

The issue prompted GCI to change course, focusing on niche rural markets where AT&T didn't offer service. But the strategy wasn't ideal.

"We knew that we needed the iPhone to effectively compete," Moore said.

In April, that happened.

GCI, MTA Solutions, Appalachian Wireless, Alaska Communication Systems, Cellcom and nTelos—none of which have more than a million subscribers—each announced that they would offer the iPhone, and sell it at a cheaper rate than their larger competitors.  Even though they had to wait longer than Verizon Wireless and Sprint, they still got the iPhone before T-Mobile USA and U.S. Cellular.

GCI began selling the iPhone several years after AT&T, its main competitor, but customers still lined up outside stores for the iPhone's midnight release.

"We had hundreds of people - they were really lined up at the door," Moore says....

Interesting side note..
Press release here >
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