AT&T exec says CDMA iPhone users won't like 'life in the slow lane'

AT&T's top PR exec decided to stir the pot on the eve of an expected announcement that Apple's popular iPhone would finally be available on Verizon Wireless' CDMA-based network.

Verizon is widely expected tomorrow to announce it will be the second U.S. carrier to offer the iPhone, and the first to do on a CDMA network.

GET THE SCOOP: Will a Verizon iPhone be announced next Tuesday?

AT&T Executive Vice President Larry Solomon today reacted to a Wall Street Journal story which reported that Verizon is confident enough of its beefed up network to offer iPhone subscribers unlimited data plans for $30 a month. AT&T currently charges them $25 a month, with a data limit of 2 Gigabytes.

Solomon sent out the following statement, according to Business Insider: "The iPhone is built for speed, but that's not what you get with a CDMA phone. I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane." Solomon noted that AT&T's GSM network is faster than Verizon's CDMA network.

That's already sparking a wave of commentary.

"Theoretically, Solomon is correct, as AT&T's 3G network offers higher peak speeds than Verizon's," writes MobileBeat's Devindra Hardawar.

"But that doesn't mean much when you can't get a network connection at all — something the 140,000-plus attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show saw last week, and something that residents of big cities like New York and San Francisco deal with every day."

AT&T has been the exclusive U.S. carrier for iPhone since the wildly popular handset was released in mid-2007. But the carrier has been plagued with complaints about missing or dropped or slow connections and poor customer service almost from the start. The company has said it under-estimated the data traffic impact of iPhone users, and has spent a lot of money to bolster its cellular infrastructure.

Late last week, in what was widely interpreted as a pre-emptive move, AT&T announced it was cutting the price of the iPhone 3Gs in half, to $49 from $99.

The big question, assuming Verizon Wireless does indeed announce a CDMA iPhone, is how many units it will sell. Several analysts have forecast that Verizon, with a current subscriber base of about 93 million, will sell 9 million to 12 million iPhones in the first 12 months. The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T sold 11.1 million iPhones in the first nine months of 2010, and one analyst estimates the 2010 total will be about 14.5 million.

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