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Friday, December 18, 2009, 10:40 am PT (01:40 pm ET)

Verizon preparing for possible arrival of iPhone in 2010 - report

Verizon, the largest wireless provider in the U.S., is reportedly investing in its network to make it capable of handling extra traffic from Apple's iPhone, a company official said.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Anthony Melone, Verizon Wireless' chief technology officer, said his company is prepared if Apple decides to end its exclusive agreement with AT&T in 2010.

"We have put things in place already," Melone reportedly said. "We are prepared to support that traffic."

The company official did not, however, comment on the prospect of the iPhone becoming available on Verizon. But various reports as of late have suggested Apple could be working with chip-maker Qualcomm for a CDMA-capable iPhone that could run on the Verizon network. While there is some debate as to whether the phone would be a dual-mode, also compatible with GSM networks, or solely CDMA, reports have pegged the new handset for a possible launch in the third quarter of 2010.

Some analysts believe a Verizon iPhone in 2010 is a very likely scenario. Piper Jaffray believes there is a 70 percent chance Apple will launch the handset in mid-calendar year 2010. With 89 million customers, Verizon would add a great number of potential customers for Apple to expand the iPhone to.

But some others believe that a deal between Apple and Verizon would be too complicated, citing the incompatibility of the current phone with its network, and also the conflicting interests between the two companies. Others have viewed T-Mobile as a potential candidate, as it and AT&T are the only nationwide GSM networks in the U.S.

Verizon has invested nearly $19 billion in its wireless network over the last three years, and made acquisitions of companies like Alltell to improve its network. Melone said his company's investment in its network is evidence that it takes its service seriously.

AT&T's network, meanwhile, has struggled since the launch of the iPhone 3GS, and key features like multimedia messaging and tethering were delayed to prevent a strain on the network. But Melone told BusinessWeek that Verizon would not have those same issues.

"We will handle it if we ever get it," he said.