The Associated Press

NEW YORK – The iPhone will be available on other cell phone networks as early as this fall and will likely come first to T-Mobile USA, one analyst who follows Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) closely said Thursday.

In a note to investors, Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu said his checks with Apple suppliers and others suggest AT&T Inc. will lose its exclusive place as the iPhone carrier no later than the first half of next year.

One reason T-Mobile is a likely candidate is because the company’s wireless technology is similar to AT&T’s. Sprint and Verizon Wireless use a different wireless standard, so converting the iPhone to run on their networks would presumably involve more technical hurdles.

Wu said T-Mobile also sees the iPhone as key to winning back lost customers, meaning the company will be more likely to settle for Apple’s terms.

"T-Mobile does not comment on rumor or speculation," T-Mobile USA spokesman Peter Dobrow said Thursday.

"Would we like to offer the iPhone to T-Mobile customers in the U.S.? You bet. Ultimately though it is Apple’s decision on who carries its product," Dobrow added.

In any case, Wu said, Apple needs to sign up another U.S. carrier to keep up the pace of iPhone sales and counter the rising competition of phones that run on Google Inc.’s Android software.

Neither Apple nor AT&T have said when their exclusive deal is slated to end.

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