Vodafone, Tel.Italia iPhone deals end exclusivity

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Telecoms companies Vodafone and Telecom Italia will both sell Apple Inc’s iPhone in Italy, in an apparent break from previous exclusive carrier deals.

A model presents an Apple iPhone at the T-Mobile Store in Cologne in this November 9, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

So far, Apple has struck exclusive deals with carriers to sell the phone, such as with AT&T in the United States, Telefonica’s O2 in Britain and Deutsche Telekom in Germany.

Neither Vodafone nor Telecom Italia provided many details.

“Telecom Italia announced today it has signed a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Italy later this year,” was all that the Italian group had to say on Tuesday.

Vodafone said it would sell the iPhone -- a touch-screen device which combines Apple’s popular iPod music player, a video player and Web browser -- in 10 countries.

“Later this year, Vodafone customers in Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey will be able to purchase the iPhone for use on the Vodafone network,” the British-based firm said in a statement without giving any more details.

Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone company by revenue, has been competing with operators and retailers to secure the right to sell the phone.

O2 has described the device as a star performer which draws increased numbers of customers into its stores.

Customers using the phone have also driven up data revenues by surfing the Internet and sending emails, a key attraction to operators as the cost of making calls decreases.

“We have long held the view that iPhone deals have been over-hyped and are not a reason to rush to change one’s earnings estimates,” said Mark James, analyst at Collins Stewart.

“If the product begins to be sold by multiple operators, the main winners are likely to be the vendor, distributors and consumers.”

Reporting by Mark Potter in London and Niclas Mika in Amsterdam; Editing by Stephen Weeks