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Verizon leads race for (the real) iPhone 4G

Big Phone set for the boot?

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The stars are beginning to align for an iPhone that rides on Verizon's upcoming 4G LTE next-gen wireless broadband to appear next year.

But until then, don't expect an iPhone to be offered by Verizon.

Verizon has "no plans to carry the iPhone in the immediate future," Verizon spokesman John Johnson told Beet.tv at the D: All Things Digital conference this week in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

At the same conference, when Steve Jobs was asked whether there would be any advantage to having two carriers in the US — which would undoubtedly be AT&T plus Verizon — Jobs answered: "There might be." And this was just after he had said that although AT&T service was improving, "I do think they have some issues".

Jobs also said that he was only talking about today, and that "The future is long. I can't talk about that stuff." Verizon's Johnson was also only talking about "the immediate future," and not, say, early next year, when a wave of 4G LTE handsets should begin to appear.

AT&T is already pulling its broadband wagons into a circle in preparation for a 4G future. Just yesterday, Big Phone killed unlimited data plans — a move that The Reg surmised might be a preemptive strike against increasing monthly bandwidth use. Dan Frommer over at Silicon Valley Insider suggests that what's spooking AT&T is the increase in mobile video.

Which is exactly what Johnson thinks is The Next Big Thing™. "I think video is kind of the brave new world," he said, "and we're still in the wild west days of video with different formats and codecs. But I think the devices you'll begin to see — especially when we launch our fourth-generation LTE network — you'll be seeing video being much easier to use, greater compatibility between formats and devices. You're going to see people originating video, as well, and doing two-way video conferencing on 4G."

As the Gizmodophone and other next-gen iPhone leaks have shown, two-way video conferencing appears to be a capability of the iPhone that Jobs is likely to announce on Monday — which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the same day that AT&T will kill off unlimited data plans for new phone subscribers.

Verizon is welcoming 4G video. AT&T is defending itself against it.

In February, AT&T said that its commercial 4G deployment was "scheduled to begin in 2011" — but didn't say when in 2011. "Verizon Wireless," says Johnson, "is going to roll out 4G in between 25 and 30 commercial-launch markets this year," which will prepare it for a major push early in 2011, which is when LTE handsets should begin to appear.

If one of those handsets is an 4G LTE iPhone, it's even money that it'll be carried by Verizon as well as — or maybe even instead of — AT&T. ®

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