Verizon is circulating invitations to a Jan. 11 event in New York City, sparking rampant speculation that the carrier intends to announce that it will carry Apple's iPhone.
According to the bright red invite, the event will take place at 11 a.m. EST at Frederick P. Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, with Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam serving as host. Aside from that, precious little information is offered.
That hasn't stopped the rumor mill from kicking into high gear. Reports have circulated for months that Apple intends to release the iPhone on Verizon in early 2011. An October article in The Wall Street Journal, quoting people "briefed by Apple," suggested that Apple had slated a late-2010 production start for iPhones capable of running on the carrier's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network. That came after sources told the blog TechCrunch in August that Apple had ordered millions of Qualcomm CDMA chipsets for the upcoming smartphone.
Other publications carried the story, including Fortune and The New York Times. In each case, unnamed sources were cited for the information.
In addition, a number of prominent analysts have already begun incorporating a Verizon iPhone into their 2011 models for Apple. "Our model assumes Verizon launches the iPhone in early- or mid-," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a mid-December analysis. "While we do not know the timing of the launch, we have modeled it to occur midway through the Mar-11 quarter."
Over the summer, Barclays Capital analyst James Ratcliffe suggested that a Verizon iPhone wouldn't necessarily cannibalize existing customers from AT&T, which at least for the moment holds an exclusive lock on the device in the United States.
The "iPhone would be a plus for Verizon, but not a seismic industry change, given the relative stickiness of smartphone customers," he wrote in a June 22 research note. "[The] primary source of Verizon iPhone [subscribers] would be pent-up demand by existing Verizon [subscribers]." An iPhone release would raise Verizon's net subscriber base by 900,000 in 2011, he added, while between 500,000 and 1 million AT&T customers would switch to the rival carrier.
In the past week, the drum roll for the Verizon iPhone's appearance has only accelerated. "Apple's introduction of an iPhone for use on Verizon's network will come sometime after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January," read a Dec. 29 report by Bloomberg Businessweek, citing "a person familiar with Apple's plans who is not authorized to discuss them publicly." That article also suggested the unveiling event would be appropriately "splashy."