Fortune reports on a new research note from Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu speculating that Apple's first foray beyond its exclusive relationship with AT&T for the iPhone in the U.S. may be T-Mobile, not Verizon as many observers have been hoping for. Wu's primary support for his claim is the fact that T-Mobile runs a GSM network like AT&T, and while it operates on a different frequency than AT&T's network, both the iPhone 4 and 3GS physically support T-Mobile's 2100 MHz frequency.
While T-Mobile's subscriber base of 34 million users pales in comparison to Verizon's 93 million and thus appears to be a less enticing target for carrier expansion for Apple, the fact that the iPhone is already compatible with T-Mobile's network may go a long way toward swaying Apple. Apple has been rumored, however, to have contracted with Pegatron to manufacture a Verizon-compatible iPhone for release as soon as November of this year, suggesting that developing specialized hardware compatible for Verizon's network may not be as big a hurdle as some observers think.
Wu's note today is by no means the first to suggest T-Mobile as a possible first expansion of iPhone distribution in the U.S., as Wu himself and Thomas Weisel analyst Doug Reid both pointed to the possibility back in December. The following month, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Tim Horan similarly promoted T-Mobile as being the first carrier beyond AT&T to receive the iPhone, claiming that the expansion would happen this summer.
Wu has a relatively poor track record, and so we view this as nothing more than speculation based on an examination of the obvious. But due to the amount of publicity the report is receiving today, we are publishing this on Page 2 for interest and discussion.