Verizon partnering with Motorola on LTE smartphone

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) outed Motorola (NYSE:MOT) as one of its LTE smartphone partners, an indication that the close relationship the two companies forged during the past year will continue into 2011.

The nation's largest carrier will launch a Motorola smartphone--likely running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform--for its LTE network next year, Verizon COO John Stratton told the Wall Street Journal.

"We've got LTE smartphones on the horizon," Stratton said. "Motorola will be right there." Motorola has previously indicated it will release LTE devices next year, but declined to comment on its plans.

The announcement is not surprising. Verizon has launched a half dozen Motorola Android phones, including the flagship Droid phone, which helped catapult Motorola back to prominence in smartphones. Additionally, earlier this week Verizon indicated via Twitter that it will unveil Android LTE devices next month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Motorola is expected to debut an Android tablet at the confab, though it's unclear whether the device will support LTE.)

"Over last 13 months, they have done a very good job in supporting our business and have worked their way up into almost a preferred vendor," Stratton said, referring to Motorola. "They have been driving our Droid strategy."

Verizon has said it will launch its first LTE smartphone in February, and plans more for the first half of next year. Verizon's LTE network now covers 110 million POPs and offers average downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps, though the service is currently only available through two LTE-capable USB modems.

Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha warned that Verizon'a competitive actions in the first quarter of next year could have "an impact" on Motorola's financial results during the period. (Verizon is widely expected to begin selling the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone early next year.) Although Jha did not provide additional financial specifics, he said Motorola is working to minimize the problem by expanding its smartphone distribution with additional U.S. carriers including AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

Related Articles:
Verizon promises Android LTE devices at CES
Motorola teases CES Android tablet announcement
Google's Rubin offers sneak peek of Motorola Android tablet
2011 CES preview: Taking stock ahead of the show
Motorola's Jha signals Android tablet for early 2011

Article updated Dec. 22 to reflect Verizon's LTE downlink speed as 5-12 Mbps.