Rumor: Cingular To Give Away 18 Months of Service With Purchase Of iPhone

We’re not really buying this one, but apparently Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager, director of and host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” is telling people that Cingular will give away 18 months of service with purchase of an iPhone.

Cramer said “AT&T is one of the most interesting stories coming out of the tech period. In its call, the company made it very clear that it’s going to use Apple’s iPhone to get customers from Verizon Wireless by giving away its service for a year and a half to those customers who buy the phone.”

Pardon us for being skeptics, but generally that’s not how cell phone companies work. Typically, as you well know, cell phone companies use discounts or rebates on phones to encourage customers to sign contracts at a specific rate plan level. For example: Sign at $39.99 for 2 years and you’ll qualify for whatever phone, etc. It doesn’t make any sense for AT&T to give away cell service outright to Verizon customers or anyone else. Then again, if AT&T has gone psychotic, perhaps this is a way to lure people away from Verizon. “Get an iPhone now, don’t pay for service until your Verizon contract is up.” That sounds insane to us.

So what did this guy really mean? We’re not sure, but we think it’s likely that AT&T will be introducing new bundles and discounts to go with the iPhone. Maybe they’ll bundle wired service and internet with the iPhone, or perhaps there will be deep discounts in service rather than the iPhone itself, but we doubt they’ll just give service away. Then again, we did not manage a hedge fund and we are not host of anything on CNBC. And AT&T is insane.—MEGHANN MARCO

The TV Recap [TheStreet]