Apple and iPhone leave Verizon still a bridesmaid, not a bride

Verizon Wireless is still hoping to sell the iPhone, but is waiting on word from Apple Inc., Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg told analysts today.

Meanwhile, the carrier is launching the BlackBerry Storm2 on Wednesday and has plans to launch the Droid from Motorola Inc. in November, with other smartphones and other wireless devices ready in the wings to take advantage of fast Verizon networks, such as LTE, which begins rolling out in 2010, Seidenberg said in a third-quarter earnings conference call.

Both the Storm2 and the Droid will "broaden the base of choice for customers and hopefully Apple and others will join the bandwagon," Seidenberg said.

Seidenberg said Verizon wasn't chosen by Apple to sell the iPhone, noting that Apple "wasn't interested," and "we'll leave it with them." He added, however, "I have no thoughts on why they did what they did."

Seidenberg didn't mention AT&T by name as the carrier that won the exclusive iPhone deal more than two years ago, nor did he hint anything about the possibility that AT&T's contract as the sole carrier for the iPhone could end next year, which is widely rumored.

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega hinted in AT&T's third-quarter earnings call last week that the AT&T exclusive could end soon, and adopted the same tone as Seidenberg did today in saying that a broad array of devices will be sold at AT&T should the beneficial iPhone exclusive deal come to an end.

Chief Financial Officer John Killian said the Droid, which is the subject of aggressive TV advertisements targeting missing features in the iPhone, will have "different capabilities" when compared to other Android devices. "Yes, Droid uses the open platform, but its design and browsing and speed will set us apart," Killian added.

Killian noted that Verizon has a "wide array of product offerings" and that the BlackBerry Tour, introduced in July, has "done extremely well for us."

Seidenberg said an LTE rollout will push Verizon to deploy a "broad array of devices as opposed to just smartphones." He spoke specifically of machine-to-machine devices, without naming any in particular, that created a "data revenue opportunity that comes in so many different places ... Our view is to lay the groundwork of a very broad array of devices for data [revenue] growth, and sophisticated data applications."

With LTE, there are "substantial options ahead of us," Seidenberg added.

Killian said the Verizon deployment of LTE is "on schedule" with 25 to 30 U.S. markets expected to be online reaching 100 million cusomters by the end of 2010. With additional use of 700 MHz spectrum, Verizon should have LTE nationwide by the end of 2013, he added.

New wireless devices, applications and an expanding network were given as reasons for Verizon Wireless' gaining 24.4 % in the third quarter, over the same quarter a year ago. In all, wireless revenue hit $15.8 billion for the quarter, and the carrier had 1.2 million net mobile customer additions, bringing the total to 89 million customers.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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