The speculation over whether Verizon Wireless will get the iPhone has ended, but projections about the impact this will have on AT&T continue. According to a new study from ChangeWave, 16% of AT&T subscribers surveyed just before the Verizon iPhone announcement said they would switch to Verizon when it began offering the iPhone. Another 60% said they wouldn't, and 23% didn't know.
AT&T iPhone owners are the most eager to jump to Verizon, with more than a quarter (26%) planning to do so. And among all AT&T subscribers planning to switch, two-in-five (41%) say they'll do it within the first three months of the iPhone's release, and another 31% within the first year.
Analysts have lately suggested Verizon adding the iPhone won't be as severe a blow to AT&T as might be thought. UBS Securities analyst Jon Hodulik, for instance, has predicted the carrier will sell 8.8 million iPhones in 2011, down from an estimated 15.6 million last year, and lose 2.3 million customers switching to Verizon for the iPhone. But even with defections at twice that rate, the lost revenue would still only amount to a fraction of AT&T's projected $126 billion in revenue this year.
Even so, AT&T can't be pleased with the ChangeWave survey finding that 15% of subscribers are likely to switch in the next 90 days, up from 10% in September and 6% in June 2009. Poor reception, dropped calls, and cost are the three main reasons why people would leave AT&T. The same percentage (15%) plan to ditch T-Mobile, while 10% expect to leave Sprint and only 4%, Verizon. The nation's largest carrier will certainly emphasize its reputation for network quality to lure subscribers away from AT&T.
One bright spot for the No. 2 carrier highlighted in the ChangeWave study is a decrease in its dropped call rate. "While AT&T continues to struggle in this very important area and trails Verizon by a wide margin, it has made significant advances since our previous survey -- improving from its all-time worst 6.0% rating last September to 4.7% in the current survey," states the report.
The change suggests AT&T has taken concrete steps to improve long-standing service issues. "But can it do so quickly enough to forestall large-scale defections to Verizon?" asks the research firm. Judging by the finding that the proportion of AT&T customers who want to switch hit its highest level in the last year and a half, the answer looks like "No." For AT&T to shake off its reputation for spotty iPhone service, it will likely to take a longer period of steady improvement in network quality to neutralize Verizon's perceived advantage in that regard.
The ChangeWave study was based on a survey of 4,050 consumers.