3G may be the current standard in network data communication, but 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks are just around the corner. Verizon (s vz) is working on building its own LTE network as we speak, and the latest rumors suggest that Apple (s aapl) is working together with Big Red to develop the next generation of iPhone.
LTE means more data carried at higher speeds, which could theoretically work out a lot of the problems AT&T (s att) has been having with running the data-hungry iPhone on its 3G network. Video streaming, tethering, etc. should all be tiny drops in the bucket on a properly functioning 4G network.
The sources of the rumor, who aren’t revealed by the Mashable article that started the whisperings, cite bi-monthly trips to Google’s (s goog) headquarters, which resulted in an announcement of Verizon getting Android devices. They suggest the proximity to the Apple campus (8.5 miles) lends some anecdotal evidence to the possibility that Verizon could be in talks with Apple, too.
While that may not sound like very solid ground for a rumor of this magnitude, the possibility of an iPhone going to Verizon is not at all far-fetched. Big Red does look like it will be the first out the door with a fully functioning 4G LTE network, and it is the biggest wireless company in the U.S. Both of those must appeal to Apple’s sense of business and showmanship, since what could help its market share more than a showy launch of a cutting-edge device to an all-new subscriber base?
Exclusivity deals are falling in Apple’s major markets like leaves in the fall. First, the UK opened things up with Orange and Vodafone announcing their iPhone deals; then Bell and Telus in Canada spoiled the Rogers private party. AT&T is still hanging in there, but everyone besides it, including the Department of Justice, wants to see that relationship come to an end, too. It doesn’t bode well for AT&T’s primary revenue stream.
Here’s what we won’t see: A 4G iPhone in time for the June/July refresh that’s become standard practice for Apple’s mobile hardware release schedule. The tech is too new, and at this stage of testing, there’s little to no chance of seeing it mature enough in eight months’ time to allow a full-fledged launch of one or more devices for the consumer market. We’ll see a new iPhone, but it won’t be a 4G device, and it remains to be seen whether or not Verizon will somehow be involved.