With Apple's iPhone market share threatened by Android's growing popularity and by the steadily deteriorating service of AT&T's overburdened 3G system, Verizon Wireless will finally get a chance to show what the iPhone can do on its network.
The iPhone that the carrier is expected to introduce Jan. 11 in New York after months of speculation and anticipation won't support Verizon's LTE, but it will take advantage of the vast spread and capacity of Verizon's existing 3G network.
There are still a number of questions about exactly what configuration the new Verizon Wireless iPhone will support, but it appears now that the ability to support LTE will have to wait for the iPhone 5, due this summer.
The fact that Verizon Wireless would in fact get the iPhone was originally confirmed to eWEEK in an interview with regional president Michael Maiorana in an exclusive interview in June 2010. At the time, Verizon Wireless had yet to announce its LTE plans.
The announcement of the Verizon Wireless iPhone follows several preliminary moves by Verizon and by AT&T, the carrier that was originally given the exclusive rights to market the iPhone. First, Verizon Wireless has delivered its 4G network on time, and to more cities than originally announced. This means that at least some of the demand for high-speed data on its network is being handled by its LTE network, allowing more capacity for 3G devices.
AT&T, meanwhile, announced a dozen new Android devices at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, it's started calling its HSPA+ network "4G," and it's giving every indication of looking for life beyond the iPhone. A major announcement on new products from Motorola stands out, especially considering that Motorola previously was the near-exclusive home of Verizon Android devices.
It's also worth noting that Apple has been dismantling exclusivity arrangements globally. When I was in Germany in late November, for example, the iPhone was already available from three carriers. A few months before that, T-Mobile (DE) was the exclusive carrier. This same trend is happening elsewhere in Europe, where rules on competition are a little stricter than in the United States. But it's clear that once the trend to end exclusivity started, it would continue.
Add to that the juggernaut that the Android device market has become. Lately, Android phones of all sorts are starting to outsell the iPhone, they're available from a variety of carriers, and for carriers claiming 4G connectivity, they're basically the only game in town.