If you were counting the days until AT&T exclusivity of the iPhone ended in 2010, you may need to readjust your calendar.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Randall Stephenson, who became CEO of AT&T after the company was already offering the iPhone, is anxious to extend the exclusivity of the popular phone through 2011. This would be the second time the deal has been extended, the first taking the deal from 2009 to 2010.
Thus far there is nothing concrete on this rumor. Both AT&T and Apple are not commenting at this time, and the only source to come forward are “people familiar with the matter”. Even with so little verifiable information, this scenario is not difficult to imagine as the phone continues to bring millions of new subscribers to carrier.
As HotHardware correctly points out, it made sense for Apple to go with AT&T, which was Cingular when the deal was finalized, as they were using GSM band technology, one of the most popular bands in the world. If Apple had gone with any other carriers, such as when they were rumored to go with Verizon originally, they would have had to build the phone with a CDMA receiver, which is used almost exclusively in this country. This would have caused the company to have built a completely different handset for other countries that primarily use GSM, adding to the costs of launching the phone.
With all of this in mind, it makes perfect sense for Apple to stick with AT&T for the time being as everyone awaits the roll out of 4G networks over the next few years. As 4G will be standardized across the world, this will allow Apple to step seamlessly from one worldwide device to the next.
Only time will tell if these rumors of an exclusivity extension prove to be true, but it certainly seems like the logical step for both parties.