iPhone for Verizon report drives up Verizon stock prices

AT&T reassures customers it will still have iPhone in the U.S.

A report that Apple will begin production of an iPhone for Verizon and other CDMA networks pushed Verizon's stock higher today, while driving down the stock of AT&T, the exclusive U.S. seller of the smartphone for nearly three years.

An AT&T spokesman wouldn't comment on the stock dip, which was down by more than 2% at mid-day, but did strive to reassure customers it would be selling the iPhone for "quite some time."

Verizon's stock rose by more than 4% early in the day, although the stock was off those highs by mid-day.

Verizon and Apple would not comment on the report, which appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and relied on unnamed sources.

Several analysts said the report may be correct, although a few noted that other reports had speculated that Verizon would get to sell the iPad from Apple, although that right is going to AT&T also.

Apple could benefit from a CDMA version of the iPhone because it could server not only Verizon but also Sprint in the U.S.; China Telecom and KDDI in Japan; and SK Telecom in South Korea, analysts noted.

Some reports have noted a big potential for the iPhone market share to shift away from AT&T in the U.S. if the phone makes its way to other carriers.

C.L. King analyst Lawrence Harris said as many as five million subscribers could move from AT&T to Verizon with a Verizon iPhone on the market.

But Kevin Burden, an analyst at ABI, said, "the idea of AT&T subscribers jumping to Verizon seems like a stretch." There has been dissent with the AT&T network, he said, but to make a shift might require Apple to come up with a CDMA version that has more features than the current GSM version.

"If the new phone is markedly better, it might entice current iPhone users to switch," Burden said.

Burden also said AT&T's stock dip today could stabilize in a few days.

Will Stofega, an analyst at IDC, said it would not be surprising that Apple is building a CDMA version of iPhone because "all the device makers have devices on a lot of neworks."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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