In just a few days, the iPhone will arrive, for the first time, on Verizon and will mark an end to a three and a half year exclusivity agreement between Apple and AT&T. During that time, AT&T experienced a number of well-publicized growing pains as the company struggled to keep up with the voracious appetite of iPhone users for data. Over time, AT&T did make marked improvements to its network, but with Verizon largely considered to have the best network in the US, some are expecting a mass of users to defect from AT&T to Verizon.
But just how significant is the potential for a mass migration from AT&T?
Well, not as significant as you might think.
Ahead of the iPhone 4 launch this Summer, AT&T began offering iPhone users accelerated upgrade eligibility wherein any iPhone owner eligible for an upgrade at any point in 2010 was allowed to purchase the iPhone 4 at subsidized prices. In doing so, AT&T was able to lock in these early upgraders into brand new 2-year contracts thus mitigating the chance that they’d jump ship for Verizon months down the road.
Further, AT&T confirmed to John Paczkowski of All Things D that 90% of AT&T iPhone users are still under contract. That being the case, Susquehanna analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro anticipates that Verizon, at the most, will steal away 2 million AT&T customers.
But some statistical data tells a different story.
A recent Changewave survey found that 15% of AT&T customers indicated that they were likely to switch carriers within a 90 day period.
Even more worrisome for AT&T is that the percentage of their user-base planning to switch to another carrier within a 90-day period continues to rise and has more than doubled since June of 2010. When specifically asked why they wanted to leave AT&T, 42% of respondents cited poor reception as the impetus for their decision while 27% cited dropped calls. As such, the lure of Verizon for some users may simply outweigh anything AT&T can do to entice them to stay. Moreover, cities with some of the worst coverage like San Francisco have laws that make erecting new towers a cumbersome process than can often take years to actualize.
Lastly, and getting right to the point, Changewave asked respondent currently signed with AT&T if they’d move to Verizon if a CDMA iPhone were to be announced (this was conducted prior to the Verizon iPhone announcement). 16% of those polled indicated that they would switch over to Verizon while 23% said that they weren’t sure.
This of course doesn’t bode well for AT&T and we’ll find out soon enough just how many iPhone users on AT&T take the Verizon plunge.