Verizon Wireless Said to Start Offering iPhone in January

Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile-phone company, will start selling Apple Inc.’s iPhone next year, ending AT&T Inc.’s exclusive hold on the smartphone in the U.S., two people familiar with the plans said.

The device will be available to customers in January, according to the people, who declined to be named because the information isn’t public. Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, and Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon Wireless spokesman, declined to comment.

The iPhone, which has been the sole domain of rival AT&T in the U.S. since June 2007, will give Verizon a boost in its competition for smartphone customers, UBS AG analyst John Hodulik said in an interview. Verizon customers, who numbered 92.8 million at the end of the first quarter, may buy 3 million iPhones a quarter, he estimates.

“The fact is, Apple is going to dramatically increase the number of devices it sells in the U.S. when exclusivity at AT&T ends,” said Hodulik, who is based in New York and rates Verizon shares “neutral.” “It’s hard to ignore the quality issues that AT&T has faced.”

Verizon Wireless, which is building a high-speed fourth- generation network, plans to unveil several devices that will run on the new technology in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam has said.

IPhone Gains

Verizon Communications Inc., which co-owns the wireless company with Vodafone Group Plc, slid 9 cents to $28.62 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 4 p.m. AT&T fell 49 cents to $24.46. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, dropped $12.13 to $256.17 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Peter Thonis, a Verizon Communications spokesman, declined to comment. Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Continued at Bloomberg.com

Amy Thomson / Bloomberg