As speculation surrounding Verizon’sreached a fevered pitch, the Wall Street Journal has confidently announced that the carrier has finally landed ’s .
The report said the new deal will “upend the balance of power in the industry, ending Verizon rival AT&T Inc.’s exclusive hold on the device and leaving smaller players like Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA facing two well-capitalized competitors offering the world’s most popular smartphone.”
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the report said that while “it wasn’t immediately clear when Verison would have the devices in its stores,” the carrier would be announcing details in its press conference scheduled for next Tuesday in New York.
It also said the device “would be similar to the existing, but run on the carrier’s CDMA technology.” Verizon made a big splash at CES surrounding its “4G” LTE deployment plans, but that new network won’t be available for voice calls until 2012.
Impact on AT&T, other US carriers
The report noted that’s exclusive deal with AT&T, which started in 2007, “has fueled much of the carrier’s subscriber growth and has given it a solid lead in smartphone customers.”
Additionally, it noted that “the arrangement between Apple and AT&T was groundbreaking at a time when carriers tightly controlled the appearance and function of their phones, and put Silicon Valley companies like Apple and Google in the wireless industry’s driver’s seat.”
At the same time, while “Apple feels it has had tremendous success through its exclusive relationship with AT&T,” the report stated, “it recognized that it needs to partner with Verizon to grow sales faster in the US.” A note filed by analyst Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros in December said the carrier was “still excited” about launching Apple’s iPhone early next year “to combat slowing Android momentum in the US.”
Verizon has partnered with HTC and Motorola over the last year to promote Android phones in a hedge bet against BlackBerry’s inability to deliver a worth competitor to the iPhone. However, the carrier has since seen a drop in Android interest with the arrival of.
Despite its “Droid” branded push in 2010, “Top Verizon executives have continued to meet regularly with their counterparts at Apple, however” the report noted, “and have long expressed interest in carrying the iPhone, which could help add to the carrier’s base of 93 million subscribers.”
AT&T has braced itself for the loss in iPhone exclusivity that it has seen coming for some time, working to lock existing iPhone 4 buyers into two year contracts and relying upon family and business plans that make it hard for individuals to leave the carrier.
Other US carriers may be hit harder, including T-Mobile and Sprint, neither of which are expected to gain access to iPhone sales, even though the new CDMA iPhone should work on Sprint’s network, and the existing iPhone 4 can work on T-Mobile’s, albeit limited to the much slower, 2G GSM/EDGE service.
The big event
The report noted that Verizon’s iPhone launch event “threatens to overshadow Verizon’s keynote address Thursday at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, where the carrier touted its new 4G network and announced a number of Google-powered phones and tablet PCs designed to make use of the network’s capabilities.”
Verizon has invitedjournalists to the event but has notably excluded Gizmodo staff from its invitation list, a move that all but confirmed that the event involved Apple.
This week, AppleInsider was first to report that Apple had been quietly restricting employee vacations at the end of January and in early February.
On Friday, another rumor surfaced, suggesting that Apple could have a major product launch scheduled for Feb. 3.