Millions and millions of wireless customers from Verizon and AT&T have said they're waiting to buy an iPhone until the device is available on America's largest carrier. Comments by Verizon Wireless CEO Ivan Seidenberg to investors at a Goldman Sachs conference give the impression that these people could be waiting a lot longer than they thought. Rumors have indicated the company will partner with Apple on the release of a CDMA iPhone as early as January 2011.
Instead, Seidenberg associated the iPhone with Verizon Wireless' upcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, rolling out now and not scheduled to cover the entire US until December 2012. If you bought an iPhone now, that's only three months after your two-year AT&T contract would expire.
Verizon is on track to cover up to 30 cities with LTE before the end of 2010. Knowing Apple's typical product cycle with the iPhone, it's possible the LTE Verizon iPhone could launch in Spring 2011, but the LTE network will be much more complete in Spring 2012. The 2012 iPhone 6 launch date also matches what would be a five-year exclusivity period with AT&T.
Other rumors have pointed to the fact that Apple has been purchasing large numbers of CDMA radio chips as evidence that a Verizon iPhone is near. If Apple renegotiated the iPhone exclusive deal with AT&T to a shorter time period, it could be that the iPhone will hit the smaller carrier T-Mobile first. T-Mobile's network is also CDMA as opposed to AT&T's GSM technology. It's in Apple's interest to sell more iPhones to more customers on more networks as soon as possible.Apple currently only manufactures the iPhone with GSM compatible chips. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all committed to LTE technology, so it's likely that within the next few years Apple can produce one LTE iPhone model for most US carriers. In the meantime, Seidenberg was quoted saying that Verizon didn't feel like it had an iPhone deficit. "I think 4G will accelerate the process, and any other decisions Apple makes would be fine with us. Hopefully, at some point Apple will get with the program." This doesn't make it sound like the iPhone is coming to Verizon anytime soon.