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Verizon promises launch of iPhone will go smoothly

By Peter Svensson / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 1:55 a.m. HST, Jan 26, 2011

NEW YORK » Verizon Communications Inc. vowed yesterday not to mess up its iPhone launch next month.

It's a bold boast, considering how problematic the iPhone has been for its exclusive U.S. carrier so far, AT&T Inc. The iPhone 3G launch in 2008 was accompanied by a server meltdown, which left people unable to use their phones for as long as a day. The phone later overloaded AT&T's network in many areas.

Verizon believes it has learned from AT&T's mistakes. Through last year, Verizon added capacity to its network with the iPhone in mind.

"We're not going to have any flaws on the execution of the iPhone launch," Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo told Wall Street analysts yesterday.

Verizon announced two weeks ago that it would start selling Apple Inc.'s iPhone on Feb. 10. AT&T's exclusive hold on the phone has left Verizon behind in attracting smart-phone subscribers, but it hopes to catch up.

The company doesn't have a good idea of how many iPhones it might sell. Refusing to give a projection, Shammo would only acknowledge that the average analyst forecast is for 11 million units this year, roughly the same amount AT&T sold in the first nine months of last year. Analyst projections vary from 5 million to 13 million.

Verizon Chief Operating Officer Lowell McAdam confirmed on the sidelines of the meeting that the company's standard $30-per-month unlimited data plan will be available for the iPhone. AT&T abolished its unlimited data plan for new customers last summer, ahead of the launch of the iPhone 4 in June.

"That's a competitive advantage for us right now," McAdam said.

The offer won't last: McAdam reiterated that the company is going to switch to plans with a monthly data allotment soon.

A $15-per-month limited data plan the company tried out over the holidays for other smart phones won't be available for the iPhone. That plan is being phased out at the end of the month, executives said.

Verizon shares rose 55 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $35.79 yesterday. The shares hit a multiyear high of $37.70 in early January as investors grew excited about the prospect of a Verizon iPhone.

Verizon also reported fourth-quarter results yesterday, revealing that its wireless arm did well even without the iPhone.

The New York-based company reported net income of $2.64 billion, or 93 cents per share, for the last three months of 2010. That's up from $617 million, or 22 cents per share, a year ago, but the increase was mainly because of adjustments for the value of the company's retirement plans.

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