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Verizon Preparing To Support Simultaneous Voice, Data

Gearing for Apple's iPhone to join its lineup next year, the carrier is reportedly upgrading its CDMA network.

Verizon Wireless is working on providing simultaneous voice and data over its CDMA network -- a feature that AT&T touts as a differentiator for its service -- and a feature at the center of an Apple iPhone ad campaign.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a Verizon executive confirmed the carrier is working on adding that capability so that its customers can perform tasks like surfing the web or sending emails while they are talking on their phone. However, the executive, Brian Higgins, also downplayed the need for using voice and data at the same time. He said, "For a vast majority of customers, I don't think it's a terribly important use case, [except in] fringe cases."

Widespread reports have Verizon launching the iPhone early next year, which would end AT&T's three-plus year monopoly on the device.

The two carriers' networks have notable differences. AT&T's network uses a standard called UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and lets customers stay on a phone call while updating a Facebook page or checking Google Maps. A device using Verizon's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network can handle only data or a voice call in a single session. CDMA is not used much outside of the U.S. and CDMA devices are known to consume batteries more quickly. Last week, Verizon said its 4G LTE network will go live by the end of the year in 38 wireless cities and 68 airports, and that users can expect download speeds of up to 12Mbps.

As for the nation's other major carriers, Sprint Nextel Corp. also runs its network on CDMA, and T-Mobile's runs on UMTS. The ability to simultaneous carry both voice and data will become commercially available in the first half of 2011, according to the CDMA Development Group, an organization of companies that oversees the development of the technology, the WSJ reported.

If Verizon does get a CDMA version of the iPhone, 23% of AT&T's customers will make the switch, according to a September survey by Credit Suisse.

AT&T has also had to contend with complaints from customers about poor network coverage, notably in large cities like New York and San Francisco.

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