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Wireless Carriers’ Exclusive Handset Arrangements: An Empirical Look at the iPhone

Since the Apple iPhone’s first launch in 2007 with an exclusive arrangement with AT&T, it has garnered overwhelmingly positive responses from consumers and from the media. With its success, exclusive contracts between handset makers and wireless carriers have come under increasing scrutiny by regulators and lawmakers. Such practices have been criticized by regulators, by the media, and by “locked-out” consumers, due to the fact that a consumer has to subscribe to a particular service provider if he or she strongly prefers one handset to others. In this paper, we empirically examine the impact of handset exclusivity arrangements on consumer welfare. First we study consumers’ purchase decisions in mobile services that include the choice of a handset and of a service provider. We do so by combining survey data on consumers’ purchase decisions with supplemented data on prices and features of common handsets. Next, assuming a Stackelberg leader-follower relationship between the handset manufacturers and the service providers, and using our demand estimates, we recover the marginal costs for the players in the market. We then simulate what would have happened in the counterfactual scenario when the iPhone is available from all carriers. Our results suggest that, if we take into account price adjustments from handset manufacturers and service providers in response to the change in market structure, consumer welfare will increase by $326 million without the exclusive arrangement. We view our analysis as a starting point to a more complete characterization of consumer behavior and the complex relationships among players in this industry.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Chintagunta_Liu_11_35.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 11-35.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision: Oct 2011
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1135
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Villas-Boas, Sofia B., 2007. "Vertical relationships between manufacturers and retailers: inference with limited data," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt6gz1t778, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
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  3. K. Sudhir, 2001. "Competitive Pricing Behavior in the US Auto Market: A Structural Analysis," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm228, Yale School of Management.
  4. Anja Lambrecht & Katja Seim & Bernd Skiera, 2007. "Does Uncertainty Matter? Consumer Behavior Under Three-Part Tariffs," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(5), pages 698-710, 09-10.
  5. Patrick Bajari & Jeremy T. Fox & Stephen Ryan, 2006. "Evaluating Wireless Carrier Consolidation Using Semiparametric Demand Estimation," NBER Working Papers 12425, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. David Besanko & Jean-Pierre Dubé & Sachin Gupta, 2003. "Competitive Price Discrimination Strategies in a Vertical Channel Using Aggregate Retail Data," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(9), pages 1121-1138, September.
  8. Paulo Albuquerque & Bart J. Bronnenberg, 2012. "Measuring the Impact of Negative Demand Shocks on Car Dealer Networks," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(1), pages 4-23, January.
  9. Hausman, Jerry, 1999. "Cellular Telephone, New Products, and the CPI," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(2), pages 188-194, April.
  10. Xinlei (Jack) Chen & George John & Om Narasimhan, 2008. "Assessing the Consequences of a Channel Switch," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(3), pages 398-416, 05-06.
  11. Jiyoung Kim, 2006. "A Structural Analysis for Consumer's Dynamic Switching Decision in the Cellular Service Industry," Working Papers 06-24, NET Institute, revised Oct 2006.
  12. Amil Petrin, 2002. "Quantifying the Benefits of New Products: The Case of the Minivan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 705-729, August.
  13. Lukasz Grzybowski & Pedro Pereira, 2011. "Subscription Choices and Switching Costs in Mobile Telephony," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 38(1), pages 23-42, January.
  14. K. Sudhir, 2001. "Competitive Pricing Behavior in the Auto Market: A Structural Analysis," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 20(1), pages 42-60, January.
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