Wind Mobile may not sell Apple Inc.’s iPhone in its stores, but the start-up carrier is supporting more than 2,500 of the iconic devices on its network.
Executives say a growing number of Wind’s 650,000 wireless subscribers are turning to other sources to buy unlocked versions of the latest iPhone that work on the AWS (Advanced Wireless Spectrum) frequencies available on the small carrier’s network.
“There has been a reasonable movement, particularly from Apple, to [allow customers to] buy unlocked phones and bring them wherever you want to go – which has helped us,” Wind’s chief financial officer Brice Scheschuk told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board on Monday.
“We have over 2,500 iPhones on the network now – and that’s [iPhone] 5s only.”
His comments come as Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple continues its rollout of the latest iPhone in markets including Canada, Australia, China and France. The smartphone maker said new models would available to customers in Apple retail stores on Friday starting at 8 a.m. local time and as of 3:01 a.m. EDT at the Apple Online Store .
Wind, meanwhile, plans to bid in an upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in order to secure the assets necessary to build a next-generation wireless network.
“You’re north of $100 a month with an incumbent with an iPhone almost no matter what you do. We are well below half that,” Mr. Scheschuk said, referring to Wind’s unlimited data plans.
Other carriers are also experiencing similar trends. Mr. Scheschuk said that roughly 5 per cent of Wind Italy’s 20 million subscribers have brought the iPhone on that company’s network even though it does not have a direct agreement with Apple. “They have over a million, I believe, iPhones on their network,” he said.
Canadian carriers that will sell the new iPhone directly to their subscribers include BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility and its Virgin mobile brand; Rogers Communications Inc. and its Fido fighter brand; and Telus Corp. along with its Koodo discount brand.
The absence of the iPhone from new-entrant handset lineups has long been a competitive disadvantage for Wind and other carriers like Mobilicity and Quebecor Inc.’s Vidéotron Ltée unit, which all use AWS spectrum for their networks.
Previously, Apple did not make an iPhone that was compliant with AWS frequencies. Earlier this year, however, it began selling certain models that work on new-entrant networks. Apple did not immediately return a message seeking a list of which iPhone models are AWS-compliant.
Wind CEO Anthony Lacavera said his company aims to find a way to sell iPhones directly to its customers.
“We are working on that,” Mr. Lacavera said. He later added: “We don’t exist to Apple. We’re so small ... There are some significant commitments that need to be made. So, we are working on alternate sources for it.”
Demand for more choice in handsets is likely to grow as Wind continues its push to target more lucrative customers. Mr. Lacavera estimates that roughly 60 per cent of Wind’s customer base is now comprised of post-paid users – subcribers that pay their bills at the end of the month instead of prepaying for service.
Wind’s average revenue per user (ARPU) – a key metric that reflects the average monthly consumer bill – increased by more than 2 per cent to $28.30 for the second quarter of this year. That figure, however, reflects a blend of both postpaid and prepaid ARPU.
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