Engadget has dug up some court documents from 2008 in which Apple admits that they signed a five-year exclusivity contract with AT&T in 2007. USA Today had reported when the iPhone was released that the deal would last five years but it was never independently confirmed.
The only question that still remains about the exclusivity deal is whether or not it will still continue until 2012. Contracts can be canceled and there could be clauses in the contract that could get Apple out of the deal early. But unless more information is leaked, we won’t know until Apple makes the announcement..
Verizon has a huge chunk of the market and there are plenty of people who downright refuse to use AT&T. Apple would love to have access to those customers but may not be able to do so until 2012. Luckily I live in a city with decent AT&T coverage, but I can’t imagine how frustrating this news must be to those who live in cities with spotty AT&T coverage.