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Apple iPhone 4 is coming to Verizon in 2011 - Can their network handle it?

A recent Fortune magazine article suggests that Apple's iPhone 4 is finally coming to the Verizon wireless telephone network in early 2011.

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/10/29/verizon_iphone_seidenberg/

Though the piece is somewhat a love letter to Verizon's CEO, Ivan ­Seidenberg, it also highlights some important questions about whether Verizon's network is up to the challenge:

As noted, wireless data usage on the device is a major burden on AT&T's network; iPhone users who complain about AT&T service don't always realize how much they contribute to the strain, partly because the iPhone persistently reaches out to AT&T's towers, switches, and computers to grab data. While Seidenberg wouldn't comment on the iPhone specifically, he and Lowell ­McAdam, his operating chief and heir apparent, seem confident the Verizon network will hold up. McAdam points out that Verizon already carries a data hog of a phone, the Motorola Droid (which runs on Google's Android operating system), and that the average Droid user consumes more data than the average iPhone user

But there are vastly fewer Droids on the Verizon network (the company won't say how many) than iPhones on AT&T. And when the iPhone arrives, Verizon's network --billed as the "nation's most reliable" -- will be assaulted by millions of data-hungry users downloading apps, watching videos, and yes, even making phone calls.

AT&T's network has been strained by the data hungry smart phones particularly in some major markets like New York and San Francisco. These strains led to many loud complaints about AT&Ts 3G network -- and a chorus of "if only we could switch our iPhones to Verizon" all our problems would be solved.

Recent independent tests suggest that AT&T's network actually performs quite quickly in most major markets, but quite a few "squeaky wheel" users in NYC and SF would beg to differ. Like "real estate," wireless coverage and network speed can indeed be a very local experience.

Sometimes my iPhone's 3G works quite quickly, and sometimes it doesn't. Don't even bother to try to send text messages or upload photos to Facebook while attending a UT Football game with 100,000+ attendees.

It will be interesting to see if people still "love" Verizon's wireless network when millions of new users jump on at the same time.

FYI -- current AT&T iPhone 4 users will not be able to switch to Verizon's network using their existing phones. The competing networks use completely different wireless protocols, and thus they require different internal chipsets be used inside the phones.