Verizon, which has bet its network, marketing and reputation on its aggressive and nearly complete 4G LTE rollout, sees Apple's iPhone 5 rollout as the beginning of the end for 3G usage.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference Thursday, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said that he expects 3G usage on his network to decline was the iPhone 5 rolls out. Verizon then plans to allocate more spectrum to 4G services.
"With the launch of the LTE iPhone, usage on 3G will start to decline, so we will be able to reappropriate that spectrum over 4G," said Shammo.
As previously noted, Verizon stands to gain a lot with the iPhone 5 launch. For starters, Verizon has the best LTE coverage in the U.S. so far (a fact it will tell you every few minutes). AT&T's LTE build out is humming along, but Verizon will have LTE coverage as thorough as 3G in 2013.
For Verizon, this migration to LTE is huge. First, customers will gobble up more data. Second, LTE networks are more efficient than 3G. Verizon wins on both counts.
Shammo didn't talk iPhone 5 preorders, but did add that Verizon will push its LTE advantage. He said:
I think the iPhone is a great product. Apple is a great partner of ours. They help us build our business and, look, I think if you look at this strategically I don't think anyone can dispute that Verizon Wireless is an absolutely a strategic advantage when it comes to LTE.
So when you look at their coverage which is more than two times all the other carriers combined and if you look at some of the press that has come out where they've tested the phones, I think it is pretty evident that the Verizon Wireless LTE Network is superior to everybody else. And that means something to people because when you want that coverage, you have it and we've invested a lot in LTE and I think we have a strategic advantage.
The LTE advantage is going to be interesting to watch in the U.S. Over the next few months, Verizon clearly has an edge.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse outlined the advantage on Wednesday at the Goldman conference. He said:
We believe we will be successful selling LTE devices. By the way, we've sold 1 million LTE devices already, Sprint has. 90% of them have been, if you will, the Galaxy 3 and the Evo So customers are buying LTE devices even though we're just beginning to roll out LTE because they're interested in unlimited and they're signing two-year contracts and they believe LTE is coming. So I'd rather, over that two-year period, get a good deal, get a good service plan, get a good rate plan, beyond unlimited, and LTE will come. That being said, on a temporary basis, there is an advantage that Verizon in particular will have, when it has an advantage in LTE footprint because that's temporary.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson definitely wasn't going to concede an LTE edge to Verizon. He said:
The LTE build is coming along very well, very pleased with how that has gone. In fact, I would tell you the LTE build, we have done a lot of technology rollouts in my career, in my 30 years in this industry. This has been probably the best technology rollout that we, as a company, have done and I am feeling really good about the product, the service and the rollout itself.
Now that the iPhone 5 is launching, this carrier battle over who has the best 4G will play out around the world. In the United Kingdom, EE has the jump on LTE and for a bit will be the only carrier to be able to offer a 4G iPhone 5. The upshot is that the iPhone 5 launch will accelerate the global LTE rollouts that were jump started by Android devices.