iPhone 5: No Threat to AT&T?

AT&T need not fret over the pending sixth-generation iPhone causing massive subscriber defections, according to a financial analyst.

In a note reiterating an Outperform rating on AT&T shares, Jennifer Fritzsche of Wells Fargo reminded investors that it was feared AT&T would lose many customers when Verizon Wireless received rights to sell the iPhone in the second quarter of 2011, as Barron’s reports. Instead, Fritzsche wrote, AT&T added more than 1.4 million postpaid subscribers last year.

Sprint got its hands on the iPhone for the first time in October of last year, while a pair of prepaid operators and U.S. Cellular started offering it this summer.

The analyst said AT&T has “many tools in place” to keep its customers, the report noted. For instance, Fritzsche was said to point out that the lion’s share (88 percent) of AT&T’s 69.7 million postpaid customers are either subscribing to a family plan, benefit from a corporate discount or are doing both, making this subscriber base extremely “sticky.”

The next iPhone is widely expected to be announced on Sept. 12, although Apple has been mum as is customary. AT&T was the first U.S. carrier to sell the iPhone in 2007; now, several wireless providers offer the smartphone.

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