Verizon: We're ready for increased traffic--iPhone or not

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) insists its network is ready to handle increased mobile data traffic, whether it gets Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone early next year or not. However, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the nation's largest wireless carrier is actively boosting network capabilities for an iPhone launch.

The Journal--which along with the New York Times recently reported that Apple is building an iPhone for Verizon's CDMA network--said Verizon has been meeting with Apple recently, and is actively adding capacity and testing its network to prepare for the iPhone. The report is the latest in a drumbeat of articles pointing to a Verizon iPhone shipping early next year.

A Verizon spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Verizon has added a half-dozen data-friendly smartphones during the past year running Google's Android platform. Outgoing Verizon Communications CFO John Killian in June estimated the carrier's smartphone users typically chew through 600 MB to 800 MB of data per month. Verizon insists it can handle even more traffic.

"The Android experience gives me confidence we can engineer a great data network," Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone told the Journal. "We are planning for growth. We build capacity, cushion and contingency."

About 20 percent of Verizon's subscriber base uses smartphones, Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg said at an investor conference last month. The company expects that number to rise sharply during the next few years. By contrast, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has said that around 53 percent of its postpaid subscriber base uses smartphones. However, the two carriers' definition of what constitutes a smartphone may not exactly match.

AT&T has come under fire for poor network services in markets such as New York City and San Francisco, and has spent billions of dollars upgrading its HSPA technology and adding backhaul capacity to handle data demand. Carrier executives have argued that the overwhelming surge of data from the AT&T iPhone and other smartphone users has helped the carrier strengthen its network.

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

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