By now you know the news: Steve Jobs is stepping down as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) chief executive. What you might have missed in all the hubbub is yet another rumor of the iPhone 5 finding its way to a new carrier. This time? T-Mobile.

Several sources are reporting the story. TIME's Tech Land blog has a good rundown of the varying innuendo. All suggest some form of deal between Apple and T-Mobile is in the works, following earlier reports that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) will also sell the iPhone 5 when it ships in the fall.

Combine these rumors with reports that Apple will include radios for both the major cell network technologies (i.e., CDMA and GSM) and you've got what looks like a major disruption in the making. Apple could be planning a smartphone that works equally well on any carrier network. I can only imagine how nervous AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) must be.

Historically, carriers have worked out limited exclusivity of certain premium handsets in order to preserve profits or even attract users lusting after upgrades or features. AT&T did it with the original iPhone while Verizon took heat for years for securing early access to Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM) BlackBerry handsets. Congress threatened to investigate the practice at one point.

Now it appears those days are gone, and with them any hope of carriers using artificial lures to lock in customers. They'll be forced to compete not only on price, but also on call quality, data delivery, and (gasp!) customer service. You know what? It's about freaking time.

Do you agree? Disagree? Use the comments box below to let us know whether you're planning on buying the iPhone 5, and if so, which carrier you'd go with. You can also add Apple to your watchlist for up-to-date analysis as soon as it's published.

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