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Friday, July 24, 2009, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Verizon rumored to be fast-tracking 4G for launch by early 2010

A new rumor suggests that Verizon could be scrambling to launch its high-speed Long-Term Evolution data network in the first quarter of 2010 — just in time, perhaps, to accommodate an Apple-made tablet.

Citing a "knowledgeable" source, TechCrunch reported Friday that the deployment of Verizon's new 4G mobile broadband network, originally planned for a limited launch in late 2010, is allegedly being fast-tracked.

"Our source says that Verizon is putting just about everything it has in to moving many of these markets up to Q1 2010 — which is the same timeframe for this supposed new Apple device," the report states. "While the source had no information to specifically tie Apple to this move by Verizon, they did note that there was talk of at least one non-dongle (wireless card) product that this LTE launch was being specifically geared towards."

The timing is particularly interesting given the exclusive rumor broken earlier Friday by AppleInsider that Apple is also racing toward an early 2010 launch for its still-unannounced multi-touch 10-inch tablet.

Verizon officials have kept Apple in mind as they prepare to roll out their LTE network. Earlier this year, Verizon's chief executive Ivan Seidenberg said the chances of an iPhone on his network will be greater once 4G is in place.

The problem for Apple and the iPhone has been that the device runs only on GSM devices. While SIM card-based phones are the standard internationally, carriers such as Verizon and Sprint in the U.S. use CDMA-based networks.

But that problem goes away with Verizon's choice of LTE. Unlike the artificial split between North America and the rest of the world today, a large number of both domestic and international carriers plan to move to LTE within the next few years, including AT&T and T-Mobile USA. The switch will let Apple build iPhones that stay with one core technology but which could be used worldwide with no real compromise.

Verizon's LTE network is reportedly capable of speeds up to 60 Mbps — much faster than any existing 3G network.

TechCrunch reports that their source believes a data-only service offering for the tablet, which will not include a microphone, would not be in violation of the existing AT&T-Apple iPhone contract, due to expire in 2010. They said their source believes that a deal between Verizon and Apple "seems inevitable."

"Our source doubts that Apple would want to sell the device with a subsidy, locking customers into another contract, but believes that Apple could either try to bake the cost of the network into the device (which would work like Amazon’s Kindle)," the report reads. "Or, more likely, customers could sign up for a month-to-month data-only plan for the new device. And because it’s data only, the price would be significantly cheaper than current cellular bills we’re used to."