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Verizon was 'never in the running' for original iPhone, says CEO


Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg admitted in an interview Thursday that the nation's largest wireless network was "never in the running" for the first-generation iPhone because Apple was focused on the GSM technology.

Seidenberg filled in details of the lengthy negotiation process between Apple and Verizon in an interview with journalist Charlie Rose of BusinessWeek.

Rose's first question focused on the ongoing debate over the relative merits of the AT&T and Verizon networks. "Do you expect to have the problems AT&T had with the iPhone?" Rose asked.

As expected, Seidenberg remained confident in Verizon's ability to withstand a glut of new iPhone users, citing "a little-known fact" that the network carries "almost as much data as [AT&T]." "We think we're ready, and we're not going to talk much about it. We're just going to let the performance speak for itself," said Seidenberg.

According to Seidenberg, when Apple approached carriers about the first-generation iPhone, "it wanted one carrier in every major market." Since Apple was focused on just one technology, GSM, they chose AT&T. Verizon had "good discussions" with them, but Apple wasn't interested in building devices for GSM and CDMA.

As such, Verizon never ended up participating in "the sort of mating dance" that AT&T and Apple went through, because it was "never in the running." Over the last three years, however, Apple has been expanding to multiple carriers in other markets, so Verizon "did have a lot of discussion with them over the last couple years," Seidenberg noted.

When asked by Rose who initiated the talks, Seidenberg admitted that he had called up Apple CEO Steve Jobs and gone out to visit him. Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam called up Apple COO Tim Cook and went to visit him, as well.

"We consciously reached out to them more than once. This was the view that we had that...eventually their interests would align with ours."

Seidenberg praised Jobs, calling the Verizon iPhone "just another arrow in his quiver," while also calling the partnership between Apple and his company strategic because Verizon is "further along in 4G" than the other carriers. "If you do your job well," he continued, "then in an industry like this, eventually the right partners are going to end up on the dance floor."

During the interview, Seidenberg cited an "hilarious" statistic: "90 percent of the traffic on the Internet in five years will be video." According to the executive, Verizon is "sitting in a position to say that between our global Internet backbone, our FiOS [residential fiber-optic network], and now our nationwide wireless network, we're in a position to put all the video that anybody wants to put on any tablet, on any device, any television set...anything they want.

"So we can have a lot of fun in the short term banging heads with AT&T, but in the long term it's going to open up a new market and allow us to work with a great company like Apple to help us develop products."

Seidenberg said he was fine with not having the Verizon logo on the iPhone because the network "has already proven that we're more than a one-device company."

"We're going to continue to do a great job on the BlackBerry and a great job on the Droid," he added.

After 45 years of working at Verizon, Seidenberg will retire later this year. McAdam is set to take over as CEO.

Seidenberg's comments Thursday were in line with those made by McAdam on Wednesday. McAdam told Bloomberg in an interview that the technical planning for the Verizon iPhone took 6-9 months.

Verizon announced the long-expected CDMA iPhone Tuesday at a media event in New York City Tuesday. The carrier will begin selling Apple's popular smartphone on Feb. 10 for a starting price of $199.

Analysts expect the network to put significant "marketing muscle" behind the iPhone 4.