Verizon to rural operators: You'll have to go to Apple for iPhone

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said it remains committed to its promise to give smaller wireless carriers--those with 500,000 or fewer subscribers--access to its exclusive devices from all of its handset partners six months after the carrier launches the phones. However, the operator said that because its deal with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to sell a CDMA version of the iPhone isn't exclusive, the agreement won't apply to the iPhone. 

Shortly after Verizon announced it would offer a CDMA version of the iPhone to customers in February, Rural Cellular Association President and CEO Steven Berry issued a statement asking that Verizon re-affirm its previous commitment to allow smaller and regional carriers to obtain access to popular smartphones and other devices six months after launch. "Further I seek Verizon's support in encouraging Apple to make the iPhone and iPad available to all RCA members within six months of their release," Berry said.  

Verizon Wireless' newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer Marni Walden responded: "There is no exclusivity in our relationship for the iPhone (unlike AT&T's arrangement, which involved several years of exclusivity)," Walden wrote. "Thus, the July 2009 letter is not applicable to this situation."

Walden encouraged Berry to have RCA member companies contact Apple directly about obtaining the iPhone.

RCA spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler said the group hasn't yet seen Verizon's letter, but promised the group would respond after reviewing it.

The RCA and its members have been pushing the FCC, the Department of Justice and Congress to look at large wireless operators and how they use their market buying power to get handset manufacturers to cut exclusive deals. Smaller operators are unable to ink similar deals because they don't have the large volumes that bigger carriers can offer--and thus often have difficulty getting access to popular handsets.

For more:
- see this letter from Verizon to RCA (PDF)

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