Verizon Hurrying To Launch LTE By Early 2010 For Apple? [TechCrunch]

via TechCrunch by MG Siegler on 7/24/09

verizon_logo_redSo, it’s looking more and more likely that a large form iPod touch, which we first reported on last December, is coming sometime in the next 6 months. But there are still a lot of unknown variables and question marks. One is the rumored deal Apple is working on with Verizon for such a device. We’ve just spoken with a source who had some more interesting details that may relate to such a deal. The source, which has been knowledgeable about such things in the past, says that Verizon is racing to have its LTE service ready to go in a bunch of markets for Q1 2010.

While it has been known for a while that LTE will be rolling out in select markets at some point next year. The most recent roadmap has 20-30 markets as a target for the second half of 2010. But our source says that Verizon is putting just about everything it has in to moving many of these markets up to Q1 2010 — which is the same timeframe for this supposed new Apple device. While the source had no information to specifically tie Apple to this move by Verizon, they did note that there was talk of at least one non-dongle (wireless card) product that this LTE launch was being specifically geared towards.

Verizon is actually already doing limited tests of its LTE network in select markets. And the results have been very impressive — up to 60 Mbps. LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution”, but an easier way for many people to think of it may be as “4G”. It’s the next generation of wireless network after the 3G that many of us currently use. And there’s another reason that Verizon may want to hurry LTE along as it relates to Apple: The iPhone.

Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T to be the iPhone’s carrier in the U.S. is set to end sometime in 2010. While everyone (including me) is quick to dream about Apple offering a Verizon iPhone, currently, Verizon runs a CDMA network which is different from the GSM network that the current iPhone is constructed for. This would mean Apple would need to make a new version of the iPhone for Verizon. And that’s fine, except that CDMA will be replaced by LTE, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend time building a version of the phone that will quickly be obsolete. And AT&T is also expected to roll out an LTE network (though not likely until 2011), so this new version of the iPhone could work on both Verizon and AT&T.

Of course, if you’re in a place where LTE isn’t available, what the phone running on Verizon’s network would fall back to is still a question mark. But that’s all just speculation about a Verizon iPhone, let’s get back to the Apple tablet.

1625756107_32fa678d69Our source believes there is definitely some credibility to this Apple/Verizon tablet talk, because such a partnership could work while the Apple/AT&T exclusive iPhone pact is still in place — which it seemingly will be in Q1 2010. The reason is that this tablet will apparently not have a microphone, so in other words, it cannot do voice calls, which puts it outside of the Apple/AT&T agreement. Such a Apple/Verizon deal would then only include data transfer, with is also interesting in what it could mean for the pricing.

Our source doubts that Apple would want to sell the device with a subsidy, locking customers into another contract, but believes that Apple could either try to bake the cost of the network into the device (which would work like Amazon’s Kindle). Or, more likely, customers could sign up for a month-to-month data-only plan for the new device. And because it’s data only, the price would be significantly cheaper than current cellular bills we’re used to.

Current data plans on top of regular cellular bills run about $30 a month, but data-only plans offered through wireless cards usually run about $60 a month. Perhaps if Apple could bake part of that cost into the device and get the monthly fee closer to the $30 a month, some users might be willing to pay for that. Or maybe, since the device would presumably have Wi-Fi, perhaps Apple and Verizon would offer variable rates based on your usage.

Obviously, there are still a lot of question marks with regards to pricing, but thought of having an Apple tablet that can access data at speeds approaching 60 Mbps is obviously going to be appealing to a lot of people.

Our source went on to note that Apple and Verizon doing some kind of business seems inevitable. They reiterated claims — which we’ve heard from several other sources — that the folks inside Apple are not happy with AT&T at all right now given the spotty service, and seeming inability to handle the iPhone’s rapid growth. That will be music to a lot of people’s ears.

[photo: flickr/woodleywonderworks]

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