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AT&T's iPhone exclusivity may end Wednesday

AT&T and Apple this week could announce an end to their exclusive iPhone deal, as the U.S. telco giant plans to bolster its smartphone portfolio.

While the gadget world this week gears up for the expected unveiling on Wednesday of Apple's tablet computer, Hot Hardware reported an unnamed source at AT&T said the operator's iPhone agreement is set to end on the same day.

Although the report made no mention of any rival operators that are planning to offer the coveted Apple device, it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if either Apple or AT&T decided to end their exclusive iPhone deal.

AT&T has been swamped by negative publicity about the quality of its network as it struggles to cope with the exponential growth in mobile data traffic - largely caused by iPhone users. The problems even prompted AT&T's mobile chief Ralph de la Vega to unveil plans to curb excessive wireless data usage.

What's more, the operator during this year's CES made no secret of its plans to offer a greater range of smartphones, including Windows Mobile phones, Palm's latest devices, and Android phones.

We're not quite sure how AT&T offering a wider range of handsets will ease the demands on its network, but not being the only carrier to sell the iPhone might at least ease the pressure somewhat.

As for Apple, it has been rolling the iPhone out on even more carriers in even more markets as consumers scramble to get their hands on one - surely it's in Apple's interest to make available to more punters in its domestic market?
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