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Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 05:50 pm PT (08:50 pm ET)

Verizon website downtime reminiscent of AT&T iPhone preorder troubles

Strong interest in the newly announced Verizon iPhone appears to have caused intermittent outages on the Verizon website Tuesday, resembling AT&T's iPhone 4 preorder woes from last year.

Scattered reports of downtime on the Verizon Wireless website seem to indicate that pent up demand for the Verizon iPhone has overwhelmed the carrier's servers at times throughout the day.

According to one AppleInsider reader, attempts to access the upgrade section of Verizon's website timed out or received the message: "Safari can’t open the page because the server unexpectedly dropped the connection. This sometimes occurs when the server is busy. Wait for a few minutes, and then try again."

Several other readers have also reported being unable to access the Verizon website on Tuesday.

Verizon announced the much-rumored and long-awaited CDMA iPhone earlier Tuesday at a press event in New York City.

The carrier could experience an even greater surge in traffic when the device is available for preorder "on or around February 3rd," in advance of its official Feb. 10 release date. Verizon customers can sign up on the Verizon website to get the iPhone 4 before "they're available to everyone else."

The largest wireless provider in the U.S. also revealed Tuesday that the CDMA iPhone 4 will allow Wi-Fi tethering of up to 5 devices through a built-in feature of a new version of Apple's iOS, called 4.2.5. By comparison, AT&T currently only allows BlueTooth or USB tethering of 1 device for an additional $20 per month. However, a new rumor says that GSM-iPhones could get the Wi-Fi hotspot feature in a future update to iOS.

Verizon has published a frequently asked questions section on its website for customers interested in the iPhone 4.

Last June, AT&T was forced to temporarily suspend iPhone 4 preorders after a ten-fold increase in demand from the previous year threatened to overwhelm the company's servers. AT&T saw record sales on the first day of preorders for the iPhone 4, before the site was overwhelmed by the traffic. Some AT&T stores resorted to using pen and paper to take preorders for the handset.

Apple's own website and 800 number also experienced outages last year because of extraordinary demand for the iPhone 4.