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Over one third of iPhone inquirers not AT&T subscribers

About 40 percent of people seeking information on Apple's overly hyped iPhone handset are not presently AT&T wireless customers, the mobile carrier's chief executive Randall Stephenson said Tuesday.

AT&T, which has an exclusive agreement to sell the Apple handset in the U.S., has received over 1 million inquiries from people seeking more information on the combined cellphone, iPod and Internet device.

Since the carrier's deal with Apple will reportedly span 5 years, people planning to purchase an iPhone will need to join AT&T's wireless network. In some cases, that will mean jumping ship from their existing wireless providers.

The unusually large number of non-AT&T customers expressing interest in purchasing the Apple device "speaks volumes," Stephenson said during a speech at the NXTcomm communications conference in Chicago.

"I really believe this is going to be game changer," he added. "Not only for us but the industry at large."

While it's too early to tell how many of those consumers expressing interest in iPhone will actually go out and purchase one, a recent analysis by investment bankers at Bear Stearns estimates the Apple device will add nearly 1 million new subscribers to AT&T's wireless network during the second half of 2007.

An additional 3.5 million are likely to follow next year, the firm said.