The Apple iPhone may finally be coming to Sprint. The news (should it pan out to be true) could come at a significant cost to the carrier though. Citing the usual “people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sprint has agreed to buy some 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years in a deal worth US$20 billion at current rates. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told the board that the iPhone will the company’s “ticket to a turnaround” despite the fact that it will likely not make any money on the deal until 2014.
The board decided to support the decision but there must have been plenty of debate beforehand. Some directors were apparently worried that the deal will take too long to repay itself. Others were wondered whether the carrier could sell that many iPhones. In the end, they decided that they could not pass on the deal, described as a “bet-the-company kind of thing” by one source.
Hesse recently said that the fact that Sprint, the third largest US carrier, does not carry the iPhone is “the No. 1 reason customers leave or switch.” Sprint, being the last US major carrier to offer unlimited data plans, could use this to entice new subscribers to defect from AT&T and Verizon.
BGR.com has an interesting spin on the deal. It suggests that Sprint will an exclusive on the upcoming iPhone 5 (as a WiMAX device) as part of the deal. AT&T and Verizon would only get it with LTE support in Q1 2012. The rest of the world would see the iPhone 5 as a HSPA+ device.