updated 09:35 am EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
nTelos becomes fifth US iPhone carrier
(Update 2: Alaska Communications and three others too) In an unexpected move, relatively small US carrier nTelos has unveiled iPhone plans. The Virginia-based, nationally-focused carrier will start carrying Apple's hardware at 7AM on April 20, with pre-registrations starting immediately. It will have a unique advantage in starting with lower prices: the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 will be available for $50 less than usual across every model, starting the 8GB iPhone 4 at $50 on a contract and the 16GB iPhone 4S at $150.
Plan pricing starts at a relatively high level for nTelos, but also gives one of the better values for heavy users. A starter $80 plan is slightly above Sprint's and provides both 600 minutes of calling as well as unlimited text and pseudo-unlimited data, where access is throttled after the first 5GB. Moving to a $100 plan supplies unlimited voice.
The deal makes nTelos the fifth iPhone carrier in the US and the second small carrier, after C Spire. A much larger T-Mobile still doesn't have the iPhone, although it's currently waiting on spectrum refarming to adapt its network and share the same 3G bands as AT&T. nTelos is using CDMA and thus can share the same basic frequencies as its larger Sprint and Verizon rivals.
Update: Alaska Communications has also outlined plans to carry the iPhone 4 and 4S the same day. It will maintain the same device prices as nTelos, but its plans change substantially. Those who normally only plan to call in Alaska can pay $80 a month for unlimited voice, but no built-in text and a 2GB data cap. Paying $91 adds unlimited text and bumps the data cap to 5GB. A $10 premium on either plan lets them cover calls in all of the US.
Update 2: Alaska's GCI, Kentucky's Appalachian Wireless, and Wisconsin's Cellcom have also committed to the same release date and pricing. Pricing dips lower, to $60 or $70 per month, with currently known base plans starting at $60 for GCI's Alaska-only, 1,200-minute plan with 3GB of data and Appalachian's $70, 450-minute plan with 5GB of data; GCI offers US-wide plans as well. The timing reveals that Apple had made broad deals with at least a few regional carriers that were coordinated around the same day.