C Spire to become fourth U.S. Apple iPhone operator

Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:10pm EDT

A customer uses his new iPhone 4S after making the purchase at Apple's flagship retail store in San Francisco, California October 14, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

A customer uses his new iPhone 4S after making the purchase at Apple's flagship retail store in San Francisco, California October 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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(Reuters) - C Spire Wireless, a privately held regional U.S. mobile phone network operator, will become the fourth U.S. operator to sell the Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhone in "coming weeks" beating much bigger rival T-Mobile USA to a Apple deal.

C Spire, which recently changed its name from Cellular South, has about a million customers in four states, making it more than 33 times smaller than No. 4 U.S. operator T-Mobile USA, which has 33.6 million customers.

Mississippi-based C Spire said the device would be for bill-paying subscribers rather than pay-as-you-go customers, but declined to give further details about its deal with Apple.

T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), said in September that it has told Apple it would like to sell the iPhone and referred additional questions to Apple.

No. 3 U.S. mobile provider Sprint Nextel (S.N) became the third U.S. operator to offer iPhone earlier this month, after AT&T Inc (T.N) and Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).

T-Mobile USA is fighting in court for regulatory approval to be bought by AT&T in a $39 billion deal that U.S. regulators have sought to block.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew)

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