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Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 11:10 am PT (02:10 pm ET)

Rumor suggests voice & data on Verizon iPhone, AT&T talks exclusivity

Soon after an AT&T executive said on Wednesday that his company doesn't feel threatened by the prospect of an Verizon iPhone, a new rumor surfaced that Verizon's iPhone could offer simultaneous voice and data transmission over a precursor to its LTE 4G network.

Boy Genius Report relayed a rumor on Wednesday that a new Verizon iPhone could run on a Voice over Rev. A, or VoRA, network. This connectivity could allow simultaneous voice and data connections, which is not currently available on the carrier's CDMA network.

"According to our source, Verizon has been testing VoRA as a precursor to VoLTE, and as long as the network upgrade and iPhone release are aligned, we should see this happen," the report said. "If it happens."

If Verizon were preparing VoRA for deployment on a new CDMA iPhone, it would erase one reason that could hold Apple back from wanting to deliver the iPhone across the incompatible US networks: a confusing lack of feature parity between the two mobile networks. Apple has advertised the ability of the existing UMTS iPhone to access a data network while on a phone call.

As for the prospect of a Verizon iPhone and its impact on AT&T, Apple's exclusive carrier partner in the U.S., Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T's Mobility and Consumer Markets division said he isn't concerned. The executive spoke Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan technology, media and telecom conference, and The Wall Street Journal liveblogged the event.

According to the Journal, de la Vega downplayed the effect the loss of exclusivity would have on AT&T. He cited his company's family talk and business discount plans, which he said are "sticky," meaning customers are reluctant to leave those plans. He said even if the iPhone is available elsewhere, AT&T believes it can retain those users.

Verizon iPhone rumors cooled earlier this year, when Apple executives defended AT&T, and partnered with the wireless carrier once again for the iPad. But the rumors picked up once again in late March, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on two new iPhones, including a CDMA-compatible model that could run on the Verizon network. The report alleged that the CDMA iPhones will not go into mass production until September, and when the hardware would go on sale was "unclear."

Though it was recently confirmed that AT&T and Apple originally agreed to a five-year exclusive deal for the iPhone, which would have extended through 2012, contracts can be amended, canceled or breached over time due to a variety of factors. Last year, rumors persisted that AT&T's exclusive iPhone agreement expires this summer.