Gloves off: Telecom says bring your iPhone to XT, and we’ll give you $600

Formerly coy about the Apple handset’s ability to run on an XT sim card, Telecom has now launched a campaign that actively targets Vodafone customers, offering them cash and bonus monthly data if they bring their iPhone over to its new network.

A Telecom XT iPhone offer website that has just gone live promises:

Bring your iPhone 3G or 3GS to XT, sign up to a 24 month One Rate 180 plan or higher and get $600 account credit, plus get 240MB of data FREE each month for 24 months.

The deal will only be available instore. A One Rate 180 plan costs $79.95 a month including 180 voice minutes (more Telecom plan details here; see Vodafone's iPhone plans here. For Google Apps users, a community spreadsheet comparing plans has sprung up here; it calls the "Telecom" iPhone $549 by dint of subtracting the $600 cash rebate from the Apple direct price).

The $600 should be enough to cover the early resignation fee in the case of most iPhone customers on Vodafone, or at least cancel-out Vodafone's handset subsidy advantage as the only official Apple carrier.

Telecom has not gained official second Apple carrier status. Rather, it's making an audacious guerrilla play for Vodafone’s “official” iPhone customers.

"With local site now offering iPhones directly to customers, they no longer need to deal with other mobile providers for their phone – they can order it directly and bring it onto the XT network," says Telecom’s Director of Mobile Paul Hamburger.

Customers moving to XT are also able to keep their existing phone number including the 021 prefix, says Mr Hamburger. 

Telecom sells a range of sim-card only plans, which mean any compatible handset can be brought over to XT.

iPhone loves XT
The iPhone runs on 850MHz and 2100MHz frequency bands, meaning it will work on either Telecom’s W-CDMA 850MHz XT network nationwide or Vodafone’s 3G network in its urban, 2100MHz incarnation; outside urban areas, where Vodafone uses the incompatible 900MHz frequency, an iPhone trips down to GPRS/GSM.

After one false start, NBR found it was easy to run a Vodafone-bought iPhone on a Telecom XT sim card. However tethering (using your iPhone as a modem) does require an unofficial third-party app, available through sites like Geekzone.

Vodafone fights back
Vodafone recently introduced a free 3GB of data and 1000 pxts a month deal for three months to help keep its iPhone customers loyal.

Today, in the immediate wake of the Telecom's announcement, Vodafone launched a second free data offer that sees new customers who sign onto a selected on-account plan - or move from pre-pay to on-account before October 12 - receive 100MB of data free for their first three months.

Vodafone remains Apple’s only official New Zealand carrier, although with the release of the new iPhone 3GS last week, Apple started selling off-contract handsets directly through its website for the first time, slightly undercutting Vodafone in the process.

A Vodafone spokesman was dismissive of Telecom's move: "We of course are offering 3GB of data and 1000 PXTs free.

"To get to 3GB of data on Telecom’s $90 plan you’d have to spend an extra $1375/month, so Vodafone is quite happy that we’ve got a great offer in the market that delivers to the new capabilities of the iPhone - namely tethering."

Vodafone's free 3GB offer lasts until the end of September. At that time - NBR is now guessing - the heat will be on to renew the deal, or at least introduce some killer permenant plans.

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