iPhone driving customers to AT&T


The battle to control the US wireless operator market is largely a two-horse race between AT&T and Verizon Wireless according to a consumer study released by market research firm ChangeWave.

Citing a March 2009 survey of 4,292 consumers, ChangeWave notes that while AT&T leads in terms of future demand, Verizon is out front in terms of customer satisfaction and fewest dropped calls.

When asked how likely they were to change service providers in the next six months, 13% of consumers said they were very or somewhat likely to switch - among them, 9% of current AT&T subscribers said they're likely to switch, compared to 11% of Verizon customers.

Around 33% of subscribers looking to churn say they'll jump to AT&T - the highest percentage since ChangeWave started tracking these results - while 24% are planning a move to Verizon.

As Ars Technica notes, ChangeWave's historical data reveals the importance of the iPhone in customers deciding to switch to AT&T, the Apple smartphone's exclusive US operator partner.

Interest in switching to AT&T first rose above 20% in January 2007, when Apple and AT&T first announced the original iPhone, and spiked at 30% when the device hit retail five months later.

The July 2009 introduction of the upgraded iPhone 3G translated to a 32% subscriber interest in switching to AT&T, and Ars Technica speculates anticipation for the new iPhone rumored to be hitting stores in July is the catalyst behind the latest consumer surge.

Throughout the period in question, Verizon Wireless has consistently topped AT&T in customer satisfaction rankings.

With AT&T's exclusive agreement to carry the iPhone due to expire next year, sources have told the Wall Street Journal the operator is in talks with Apple to extend the deal through 2011.

USA Today reported in late April that Verizon Wireless is also in negotiations with Apple to introduce a CDMA-based version of the iPhone.

For more on the iPhone's impact on AT&T's subscriber count:
- read this Ars Technica