Verizon iPhone could have interesting implications on both 3G and LTE

Apple's iPhone is finally coming to Verizon Wireless' network on Feb. 10, and the device could have some interesting implications on both the operator's 3G EV-DO and LTE network.

Reports have indicated that Verizon is bolstering its EV-DO network to prepare for a data onslaught that the iPhone is so well known for on AT&T's network. And the rumor is Verizon will offer an unlimited data plan. Will it finally embrace a WiFi offload strategy?

Since the Apple App Store has significantly more applications than the Android Market at this point, there is a real potential for a rather high number of bandwidth-intensive applications. So far, we know that at least the FaceTime video chat feature will only be available via WiFi, just like on AT&T's network. Verizon has long shunned WiFi as a distinct strategy, although its smartphones are WiFi-enabled. But as more high-bandwidth apps are banned from 3G networks, or simply work better over WiFi, how long can Verizon resist?

Dan Hays, director of the telecommunications practice with consulting firm PTRM, believes the Verizon iPhone will create more of a halo effect for 4G rather than a direct windfall for Verizon. He believes the iPhone will indirectly accelerate subscriber adoption for Verizon's new LTE network by enabling it to lure new customers into stores and then up-sell them on 4G devices.

If the iPhone is wildly popular, I wonder if there will be a direct correlation on how aggressive Verizon will be on the LTE pricing side. It has yet to announce pricing plans for LTE smartphones that are expected to come out by mid-year. When the operator announced rollout plans for its LTE network last year, CTO Tony Melone indicated that the LTE network will give the operator's 3G network more headroom and the ability to provide more services. At this point, the company's $50 LTE modem plan undercuts Verizon's current 3G rate plans by about $10.--Lynnette

P.S. FierceBroadbandWireless will not be publishing on Jan. 17 in observance of the Martin Luther King Day holiday.