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Verizon CEO comments cast doubt on iPhone

Consumer surveys might be registering significant pent-up demand for the Apple iPhone to appear on Verizon Wireless—or at least a network that’s not AT&T—but comments from Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg to a Goldman Sachs conference this week don’t make a deal seem imminent. Speaking to investors, Seidenberg had nothing to say about bringing the iPhone to Verizon Wireless’s current network, but instead indicated “hope” that Apple would offer a version of the iPhone for Verizon’s forthcoming LTE-based 4G network.

Verizon Wireless says it expects to begin lighting up its LTE networking in as many as two dozen cities by the end of 2010, with significant nationwide coverage coming in 2012. The LTE network will, at least initially, be data-only, since voice standards for LTE networks have not yet been finalized. Initial LTE-capable phones will likely revert to old-school cellular technologies for phone calls; Verizon Wireless plans to sell data modems and hotspots for computers and other mobile Internet devices.

The last year has been dogged by persistent rumors and reports that the iPhone would arrive on Verizon’s wireless network imminently, with various sources citing insider information that Apple was ready to break its exclusivity arrangement with AT&T. However, an iPhone for Verizon Wireless’s CDMA-based network would be a separate device from the iPhones Apple is selling on AT&T—and with international carriers around the world. Apple undoubtedly has the technical capability to make a CDMA iPhone, but differences in the way the technologies operation may not be so favorable to Apple’s iOS, which assumes users can access voice and data services simultaneously. However, various industry reports have Verizon Wireless testing technologies to enable voice-and-data network access as it gears up for its LTE network.

Seidenberg also confirmed he plans to leave Verizon’s CEO position by the end of 2011, with newly-appointed COO (and former Verizon Wireless chief) Lowell McAdam taking over the top spot.

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