VZW keeps quiet on iPhone, LTE rumors

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) executives remained evasive when asked about plans to offer Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 3G S, as well as about rumors that it’s expediting its long-term evolution rollout plans, on the carrier’s second-quarter earnings call today.

Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl would say that in terms of devices, a refresh of the BlackBerry Storm is coming, along with Android and Motorola devices and the Palm Pre, Sprint’s exclusive for now, by early next year. While he did not comment on rumors of VZW being the next carrier of choice for the iPhone, CEO of JBB Research Julien Blin noted that the fact that Verizon is allegedly speeding up the roll out of its LTE network to launch in the first quarter of 2010 could indicate that an iPhone deal with Apple might be in the works.

“If true, Apple probably learnt its lesson with AT&T, and might have pressured Verizon to speed up the launch of its LTE network to support the launch of its tablet PC and probably the new iPhone 3G S by next year,” Blin wrote in a research note. “Also, LTE being a GSM-based technology, Verizon’s migration to LTE would make it a bit easier to adopt the iPhone 3G S. Verizon also expects netbooks to be a key driver moving forward, which should help fuel data usage.”

Finding out the right pricing strategy will be key for LTE, Blin added. When asked about LTE pricing plans, Chief Financial Officer John Killian said that initial pricing plans will be based on VZW’s broadband access offerings and will follow the pricing structure it already has in place today. He said it is still early days and VZW is doing its LTE trials in Boston and Seattle later this year with plans to deploy to 30 markets covering 100 million subs next year. “The other thing with LTE is there are a range of applications, machine-to-machine kinds of things, so pricing structures for that will evolve as we go through the next 12 months,” Killian said.

“We’ll continue to combine the industry’s best spectrum and LTE technology, to give us an advantage in speed, coverage, capacity and cost,” Strigl added. “And we’ll leverage these network capabilities with products that realize 4G’s potential.”

Killian also noted on the call that VZW’s Java app store will be opened by the end of the year. Blin said the app store could become a key driver for the carrier, as well as a key distribution channel for its upcoming 4G app strategy. VZW should announce additional details on its app stores at its developer’s conference tomorrow.

Overall, VZW added 1.1 million wireless subs in Q2, bringing its total to 87.7 million and beating out AT&T’s 79.6 subs in Q2. VZW also remained the leader in terms of wireless data revenue, driven by its smartphone line up and growth in messaging, email and broadband access from PC data cards and netbooks.

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