Verizon to sell Motorola 4G phone

By Dow Jones Newswires-Wall Street Journal
Posted Dec. 22, 2010 at 8:09 a.m.

Verizon Wireless will distribute a smartphone made by Motorola Inc. to run on its new 4G network, the carrier’s chief operating officer, John Stratton, said in an interview Tuesday. The comments mark the first time the carrier has identified a handset maker for the closely watched launch and represent an important vote of confidence in Motorola.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodaphone Group PLC, launched its high-speed, fourth-generation network earlier this month but has yet to introduce any mobile phones that can use it. The network, which employs a technology called Long-Term Evolution, promises wireless Internet connections that are as fast as land-based cable modems or fiber-optic technology.

“We’ve got LTE smartphones on the horizon,” Verizon’s tratton said. “Motorola will be right there.”

Motorola has previously said it would make devices that work on LTE networks in 2011, but declined Tuesday to comment on the specific timing or distribution of those devices.

The timing, name and price of the new phone couldn’t be learned. At a wireless technology conference in October, Verizon Communications President Lowell McAdam said there will be half a dozen smartphones and tablets compatible with LTE on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The devices are expected to appear in stores in the first half of next year, he said.

Schaumburg-based Motorola’s mobile-phone unit is facing questions from investors about the company’s reliance on Verizon as a distributor as it prepares for life as a stand-alone company on Jan. 4.

Over the past two years, Motorola and Verizon Wireless, the country’s largest wireless carrier, have formed a close relationship based on their mutual support of Google Inc.’s smartphone operating system, called Android. Motorola, in fact, now only produces Android smartphones.

Investors worry that could leave Motorola exposed if Verizon gets the iPhone early next year, as people familiar with the matter have said.

Verizon has tapped several Motorola smartphones to feature in its current Droid lineup, the devices that Verizon brands as the high end of its Android slate and supports with extra marketing efforts.

Stratton said the collaboration has made Motorola a very important partner for the New York-based company.

“Over last 13 months, they have done a very good job in supporting our business and have worked their way up into almost a preferred vendor,” Stratton said. “They have been driving our Droid strategy.”

This fall, Verizon Wireless began selling the Droid Pro, another Motorola smartphone aimed at the business market. So far, Mr. Stratton said the company is happy with the results. “It has been doing very well,” he said.

Motorola plans to split itself into two publicly-traded companies early next year. The first company, called Motorola Mobility Inc., will concentrate on selling mobile devices and cable set-top boxes to consumers. The other, Motorola Solutions Inc., will focus on selling mobile devices and computers to corporate and government customers.


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