AT&T running new iPhone 6s promotion (1st free and 2-6 50% off) but it's only for DirecTV customers

AT&T (NYSE: T) confirmed that it is offering a new promotion in select states across the country that will allow its DirecTV customers to get a free iPhone 6s and up to five additional iPhone 6s devices for 50 percent off. The offer launched last month and will run through the end of this month.

AT&T spokesman Steven Schwadron confirmed to FierceWireless that AT&T is offering the promotion in its Rocky Mountain, Northern Plains and Mid-Atlantic markets. The promotion will run from May 6 to June 30. The promotion was first reported by Wave7 Research.

"DirecTV customers may purchase up to six iPhones, the first phone free and phones 2-6 at 50% off," Schwadron confirmed to FierceWireless. "Customers may choose any iPhone in the 6s family but will only receive bill credits equivalent to iPhone 6s 16GB & are responsible for the cost difference of higher-priced phones. The discount is issued as 30 monthly bill credits based on AT&T Next 24. A new wireless account is required for customers to be able to participate in this offer."

The promotion is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First and perhaps most importantly, it again underscores AT&T's efforts to cross-promote its wireless service with its newly acquired DirecTV business. Earlier this year, shortly after the close of its $49 billion purchase of DirecTV, AT&T began offering unlimited wireless data service only to customers who also purchased its DirecTV pay-TV offering. The carrier has so far counted more than 3 million customers who have signed up for its unlimited data offering.

AT&T counts fully 15 million DirecTV customers who don't subscribe to the carrier's wireless service, and 20 million wireless customers who don't subscribe to the carrier's DirecTV service. "It's a huge cross-sell opportunity," AT&T chief Ralph de la Vega said at a recent investor conference.

Further, AT&T's new iPhone promotion also likely leverages slowing sales of iPhones, as well as cooling interest in the iPhone 6s as Apple likely prepares a new iPhone for a fall release. A wide range of U.S. carrier executives have acknowledged that Americans appear to be holding onto their phones for longer periods of time, which may be due to a variety of factors including the fact that their monthly bills will decrease after they pay off the full cost of their phone through an equipment installment plan (EIP).

Indeed, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners yesterday reported that the length of time that current iPhone owners wait to upgrade their phones "appears to have lengthened materially in the past two years." The firm said that, in the year ending with the June 2013 quarter, 66 percent of old iPhones were either under one year old or from 1-2 years old. However, by the March 2016 quarter, only 51 percent of old iPhones were either under one year old or from 1-2 years old.

Thus, AT&T's promotion appears partially geared toward encouraging its DirecTV customers not only to sign up for new wireless service from AT&T, but also to purchase iPhones that likely will be overtaken by newer models in a few months.

Of course, AT&T isn't the only carrier offering new promotions to juice sales. T-Mobile, Verizon and others continue to offer various promotions, mostly focusing on buy-one, get-one deals.

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US Cellular announces $1,000 promotion to attract customers
T-Mobile launches half-off smartphone promotion, adds data to refreshed prepaid plans