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3G Verizon iPhone expected to push Android-based competitors toward 4G

iPhone competitors running the Google Android mobile operating system are expected by one Wall Street analyst to rapidly embrace Verizon’s 4G long-term evolution high-speed data network, to fight off the presence of Apple’s 3G-only smartphone.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, some had hoped the Verizon iPhone would support the carrier’s newly launched 4G LTE network. But the forthcoming Verizon iPhone will be a CDMA model capable of 3G speeds, and will not access the carrier’s 4G network.

When asked why the new iPhone will not support high-speed LTE, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said the addition of 4G would require design changes to the iPhone 4 hardware that his company was not prepared to make.

In addition, he said that compatibility of the iPhone with Verizon has been the single most requested feature since the iPhone launched exclusively on AT&T’s network in the U.S. 2007. Not adopting 4G in the current model, Cook said, allows Apple to offer Verizon customers the iPhone now.

Responding to Tuesday’s Verizon iPhone announcement, analyst Mike Abramsky with RBC Capital Markets said he expects competing smartphones running the Google Android mobile operating system will work to quickly embrace 4G, giving them a feature that Apple’s iPhone does not currently offer.

Abramsky said he also does not believe Apple will rush to release an LTE 4G phone, which will allow devices running Android, and potentially new ones from Research in Motion as well, to beat Apple to the 4G race. He said he expects a 4G iPhone no earlier than late 2011, or perhaps more likely in 2012.

Mark Moskowitz with J.P. Morgan also said Tuesday he’s not surprised that Apple didn’t offer a 4G LTE handset. He noted that while there are devices accessing Verizon’s 4G data network, adoption of LTE for voice transfer has been slower.

“Similar to 3G, we expect Apple to wait for both the 4G LTE technology and network capacity levels to evolve to support quality user experiences,” Moskowitz wrote.

Verizon launched its 4G LTE network in December, offering high-speed data connections in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S. Data plans are $50 per month for 5GB, while 10GB costs $80 per month.

4G LTE mobile broadband offers speeds up to 10 times faster than Verizon’s current 3G network. Real-world data rates of between 5 and 12 megabits per second downstream are expected, while upstream is expected to achieve between 2 and 5 megabits per second.

At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Verizon rival and former exclusive iPhone carrier AT&T highlighted plans for its own 4G LTE network, set to begin deployment this year. The carrier has said that its rollout will begin earlier than expected, and the new network will be “largely complete” by the end of 2013.

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