Ting MVNO hopes to offer iPhone

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) MVNO Ting said it hopes to one day join the growing list of U.S. carriers offering Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. But the MVNO said the cost of carrying the device means it will not happen anytime soon.

Ting smartphones

Ting currently offers a range of Android smartphones.

Ting, which has built its offerings around a flexible, no-contract pricing model, faces several hurdles in offering the iPhone, wrote Ting's Andrew Moore-Crispin in a company blog post. Chief among these is the minimum purchase commitment carriers need to make in order to carry the iPhone. (Ting pointed to Sprint's $15.5 billion, four-year contract with Apple for the iPhone as evidence of the cost. Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) has said it committed $900 million over three years to sell a prepaid iPhone.)

Moore-Crispin also wrote that Apple maintains its premium branding and pricing by pushing carriers to heavily subsidize the cost of the iPhone, and that with subsidies often come contracts, early termination fees, upgrade fees and "other gotchas."

"We've heard from customers that they'd be willing to sign a contract if we could offer the iPhone," Moore-Crispin, content development manager at Ting's parent company Tucows, wrote in the blog post. "While we appreciate the sentiment and the trust it demonstrates, mobile contracts go against our core beliefs as a company."

"We're working to find other ways we can offer the iPhone to Ting customers. It's a complicated issue," he added. "While we're knocking on many doors (front, back and side), we don't expect to have anything of substance to report in the immediate future."

So far there appears to be minimal consumer interest in a prepaid version of the iPhone from either Leap or Sprint's Virgin Mobile brand. Virgin is offering customers the iPhone for $649 for a 16 GB iPhone 4S and $549 for an 8 GB iPhone 4. Leap sells the iPhone 4S for $499.99 for the 16 GB model and the iPhone 4 for $399.99 for the 8 GB model. Moore-Crispin said Ting's prices would be the same as those of Virgin.

However, Ting plans to beef up its smartphone lineup. The company said in June it expects to release a number of LTE devices "sooner than later," including the LG Viper 4G LTE, the LG Optimus Elite and HTC Evo 4G LTE. Later on, the company said it expects to sell the Samsung Galaxy S III, and possibly the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as well.

For more:
- see this Ting blog post

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