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Rogers casts doubts on iPhone for Canada

Rogers Wireless Inc., the only wireless service provider in Canada with a network suited to meld with Apple Inc.'s upcoming iPhone handset, is now dismissing the notion that it would sell the hotly anticipated device as "speculation."

"We haven't announced whether we will carry the iPhone," Odette Coleman, manager of corporate communications for Rogers Wireless, said in an e-mail to CBC News Online. "Everything in the media has been speculations to this point."

The statement strongly contradicts an e-mail sent out by Rogers to subscribers following the unveiling of iPhone back in January. In that communication, the carrier reportedly said that it was working with Apple to launch the device in Canada "as soon as possible."

Since iPhone operates on the GSM wireless technology standard, Rogers would be the only carrier in Canada suited to offer the device to its customers, as all other providers in the country use the CDMA standard.

"The only fact is that we are the only GSM carrier in Canada," added Coleman. "That's the only fact."

Ronald Gruia, an analyst with market research firm Frost & Sullivan in Toronto, said Rogers' apparent about-face may not just represent an attempt by the carrier to protect its roll-out plans. He said costs and considerations for adding a new phone to its lineup, including business and technical factors, may have offered compelling reasons for it not to carry the device.

For Rogers, major considerations likely include the fact that it's upgrading to a next-generation or 3G network and the possibility that its current contracts with cellphone manufacturers still have not yet run their course, Gruia speculated.

"Rogers may wait to see how well it does in the U.S.," he said. "If this thing really takes off and has tremendous uptake in the U.S., maybe we'll see it here in time for Christmas."

At the same time, however, the analyst noted that the latter is an unlikely situation given the device's high retail pricing of $499 and $599. Most sales forecasts have Apple selling only about 10 million units through 2008, which would represent about one per cent of the projected global market.

Those kinds of figures don't tell a wireless carrier that they must offer any device, Gruia told CBC, adding that doesn't even factor in the costs associated with training a sales force, marketing and servicing the handsets.

There's also the possibility, the analyst added, that Rogers may have a ways to go before existing contracts for large-volume sales of popular phones such as Motorola's RAZR and Sony-Ericsson's W810 are up, in which case it may note be inclined to offer the competing iPhone device.

In the meantime, some loyal Apple enthusiast have reportedly signed on with U.S. carriers so that come June, they can still get an iPhone without worrying about a specific Canadian provider.

"That will continue," said Gruia