More regional carriers grab pieces of the Apple iPhone pie

More regional carriers came out of the woodwork Wednesday to announce they, too, will launch Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 on April 20. 

In addition to nTelos Wireless and Alaska Communications, Matanuska Telephone Association, GCI of Alaska, Kentucky-based Appalachian Wireless and, according to local TV station WSAW, Wisconsin-based Cellcom will launch the iconic device. Like nTelos and Alaska Communications, most of the carriers will offer the iPhone 4S for $149.99 for the 16 GB model, $249.99 for the 32 GB model and $349.99 for the 64GB model. The carriers also said the 8 GB iPhone 4 will be available for $49.99. Each of the carriers have varying pricing plans they are pairing with the iPhone.

Matanuska did not say how much it will be charging for the iPhone, according to the AP

The prices by the regional carriers for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 are $50 cheaper than what Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) charge for the same models. 

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said he did not think Apple was purposefully trying to put its largest carrier customers at a financial disadvantage by allowing the smaller carriers to sell the iPhone more cheaply. Rather, he said it is more likely that the regional carriers decided to band together and purchase the iPhones from Apple in bulk.

"It's more efficient for the smaller carriers and for Apple. All of Apple's handset deals have a volume commitment, not only Sprint's," Entner told FierceWireless. "Because it only makes sense for Apple to sell 100,000 or more. And it's a lot less risky for the little guys to buy 100,000 together."

NTelos spokesman Mike Minnis told FierceWireless that the company negotiated with Apple directly on its own. Representatives for Alaska Communications and the Rural Cellular Association, which represents smaller carriers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives from handset distributors BrightPoint and Brightstar also were not immediately available for comment.

C Spire became the first non-Tier 1 carrier to offer the iPhone in November. Around the same time, U.S. Cellular confirmed that it was offered the chance to sell the iPhone but chose not to do so because it did not make economic sense for the company. T-Mobile USA remains the only major postpaid wireless carrier that doesn't offer the iPhone, which the company has said is largely due to the fact that Apple's devices currently don't support its 3G network, which works on AWS spectrum.

For more:
- see this The Verge article
- see this AP article

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