Verizon CEO Crushes Hopes of 1.4M AT&T Subscribers

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg

Despite supplier rumors that seemed to indicate we’d see a Verizon (s vzn) iPhone early on in the new year, recent comments by Verizon’s own CEO have put a damper on those hopes. CEO Ivan Seidenberg said at the Goldman Sachs Investor conference that Apple’s (s aapl) device won’t appear on his company’s network until it’s ready for the long-term evolution (LTE) network Verizon is so fervent about.

Seidenberg mostly emphasized the LTE network itself, and LTE-based devices, like the Android (s goog) phones Verizon’s had so much success with. It seems like both a bit of a shot at Apple, and an attempt to distance the company from the rumors, out of apparent fear that when the rumors prove untrue, Verizon stock will suffer.

Verizon expects to see its 4G network cover 90 percent of the U.S. by 2012, and is staking its future on devices that work with the new technology. Apple tends to be a late adopter of new wireless tech, only updating when the infrastructure is already in place and the demand is strong. Don’t expect Cupertino to jump through any hoops to beat other manufacturers to the LTE party.

That’s not going to be welcome news for the reported 1.4 million AT&T (s att) iPhone owners who would reportedly switch to Verizon if given the chance, according to a survey by Credit Suisse (c cs). For those keeping score, that’s almost a full quarter of all of AT&T’s iPhone customers. Not exactly what you’d call an acceptable loss. Luckily, AT&T would have a chance to convince them to stay, since only 3 percent would break their current contract owing to the high cost of early cancellation.

Verizon’s playing a high-risk game by counting on that demand to stick around while it waits for Apple to produce an iPhone that’s LTE compatible. If AT&T can improve their service, they may be the big winners in this waiting game.

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