Why Does Apple Have a Verizon Tower on its Campus?

CEO Steve Jobs caused a bit of a stir when he mentioned that Apple has a Verizon cell tower on its campus. Could this mean Apple is that much closer to announcing a deal with the carrier to offer a Verizon iPhone?

Jobs is notoriously disciplined and rarely goes off message in his public statements. However, Friday's press conference over the iPhone 4 antenna controversy was an anomaly for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) because, unlike its well-scripted new product events, this was about Apple having to defend itself.

After spending much of his presentation slamming the press and claiming other smartphones have a similar antenna problem, Jobs was joined on stage by COO Tim Cook and Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, for a Q&A session.

When one person in attendance said they could not replicate the "death grip" reception problem in the Apple auditorium, Jobs replied, "We've got a strong signal here. We have AT&T and Verizon cell sites on campus."

Job's remark didn't get noticed until after transcripts (at the 10:41 mark) of the Q&A came out later in the day on Friday and sent speculation into overdrive. There have been numerous reports from analysts and Asian media that a Verizon CDMA-powered iPhone was in the works, but Apple has remained firmly aligned exclusively with AT&T in the United States.

The mention of a Verizon cell tower on the Apple campus led to speculation that, yes indeed, Apple was working on a Verizon iPhone. There was no follow-up question about Verizon at the event and Apple hasn't commented since.

But at least once site, MacRumors, cast some cold water on the Verizon speculation, noting: "While several of these sites have indicated that Apple is unlikely to have invested in the Verizon cell tower infrastructure if it wasn't using it to test Verizon-compatible devices on its campus, the reverse is actually true -- carriers pay considerable sums of money to private landowners for the right to erect towers on their property."

Verizon Wireless declined to discuss the presence of such a tower or even acknowledge one is on the Apple campus, citing competitive reasons.

Iain Gillott, president of iGR, a market research firm covering the wireless industry, was not surprised at the news but also took a cautious view. "If they didn't have testing with Verizon at some stage there would be more reason to be concerned," he told InternetNews.com. "Have they been testing CDMA handsets for years? I would argue they have. It's like the Intel relationship. It didn't start overnight where they suddenly put Intel chips in their devices. You don't do anything overnight in the chip world."

And while prototypes are easy to do Gillott noted that it's the business arrangement to sell them that's the hard part. He figures if there ever is a Verizon iPhone, Apple is more likely to bring one out based on the newer LTE technology than CDMA.

"The engineering chipsets are available today. I would expect them to be playing with those in early forms and have a phone in 2012," he said.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPhone, Apple, Verizon, LTE, CDMA