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Verizon BlackBerry glitch casts doubt on iPhone launch


Though Verizon's executives have emphatically asserted that execution of the upcoming iPhone launch will be flawless, a recent glitch in BlackBerry data traffic on the network could be cause for concern, a new report claims.

Customers on the Verizon Wireless network had reported having trouble connecting to the Internet on a BlackBerry support forum since last Tuesday, Reuters reports.

However, Verizon downplayed the issue. "There is no outage, and there hasn't been one," said spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. "Our engineers discovered that a small number of customers in a limited geographic area had technical glitches that resulted in their email being delayed up to an hour," he said.

According to Nelson, the issue was fully resolved on Tuesday, though he declined to provide details on how many customers were effected and where the glitches occurred. Reports of service trouble were first picked up by The Los Angeles Times, which noted that many of those affected were from California.

Research in Motion, which routes BlackBerry data traffic through its own servers, claimed its service had been operating normally.

News of the BlackBerry glitch comes as Verizon is being closely watched in anticipation of the Feb. 10 launch of the iPhone 4. Analysts and potential customers alike are waiting to see whether Verizon will experience the same network woes that AT&T has undergone since it began carrying the iPhone in 2007.

Intermittent downtime of the Verizon website on the day of the CDMA iPhone announcement drew concern that the carrier, which touts its reputation as a network with excellent service, might not be ready for millions of new iPhone users.

During an earnings call on Tuesday, Verizon executives told investors, "We are not going to have any flaws on the execution of the iPhone launch." According to Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo, the carrier has invested heavily in its 3G infrastructure in preparation for the iPhone. "We've bulked up our 3G capacity again in advance of our iPhone launch," said Shammo.

The largest wireless network in the US has also hired over 3,000 new customer service representatives and provided extensive training on Apple's products in advance of the highly-anticipated launch.

Verizon sees the "iPhone opportunity" as a potential for growth to "explode over the next several years." The carrier expects smartphone penetration among its customers to reach 50 percent by the end of 2011.

Verizon COO Lowell McAdam confirmed Tuesday that the company's $30-per-month unlimited data plan will be available for the iPhone 4 at launch, but will eventually be phased out. The network will instead switch to a tiered pricing system similar to that of AT&T. Verizon is also offering a $20-per-month tethering plan that allows customers up to 2GB of "personal hotspot" WiFi tethering with up to five devices.

Reports emerged on Wednesday that AT&T has quietly been offering an unlimited data plan to customers who are thinking about switching to Verizon.

AT&T switched to tiered pricing in June of last year. According to the carrier, 98 percent of its smartphone customers use less than 2GB per month.

Though the Verizon iPhone will not go on sale until Feb. 10, Verizon customers eligible for an upgrade can preorder the smartphone on Feb 3. Corporate customers have reportedly received emails informing them that they can begin placing preorders at 3am Eastern.

The preorder launch for the AT&T iPhone 4 last year was a debacle. Sales were temporarily suspended after unprecedented demand overwhelmed AT&T's and Apple's servers. Reports of a security breach also surfaced, with some customers claiming they were being shown information that wasn't theirs.