Don't hold your breath for Verizon iPhone, says CEO

Phone company head says he hopes to get an iPhone for Verizon's 4G network, which won't be done until 2012.

It'll likely arrive someday, just not as soon as we'd like. Verizon Communications chief executive Ivan Seidenberg has tossed a bucket of icy water on smoldering rumors about a certain Apple smartphone coming to the largest U.S. wireless network.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference on Thursday, Seidenberg suggested that the iPhone won't come to Verizon's network in the very near future (e.g., January), at least not until the carrier implements its fourth-generation (4G) LTE network, a process that's already underway but won't be completed until 2012.

According to an Associated Press report, Seidenberg said that Verizon will "have to earn" the right to sell the iPhone, which is currently available only to AT&T customers in the U.S. The carrier's faster LTE, or Long Term Evolution, network may help bring the iPhone to Verizon.

"I think 4G will accelerate the process, and any other decisions Apple makes would be fine with us," he added. "Hopefully, at some point Apple will get with the program," Seidenberg said.

Verizon's LTE network will be in 25 to 30 U.S. cities by the end of the year, but initially it'll be used for high-speed data only, since standards for 4G voice calling haven't been finalized. As a result, early Verizon "4G" phones will actually be hybrid models that use the carrier's older 3G (CDMA) network for voice calls.

For iPhone users disgruntled with the subpar performance of AT&T's service, the news of a Verizon iPhone delay is no doubt disappointing. Recent rumors have hinted that a prototype CDMA iPhone was nearing completion, possibly paving the way for a January 2011 launch of a Verizon model.

According to a Morpace Omnibus' survey of 1000 U.S. consumers, more than half of Verizon Wireless subscribers would switch to the iPhone if given the chance. And more than 1 in 5 AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers would opt for a Verizon iPhone too, the poll claims.

For iPhone fans, the Verizon delay may be a blessing in disguise. It gives Verizon more time to configure its LTE network, thereby assuring a better 4G experience for all of its customers. Similarly, Apple gets an opportunity to fine tune the iPhone for LTE--and hopefully avoid the sloppy errors, including the well-publicized antenna and proximity sensor glitches, that have afflicted the iPhone 4.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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