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iPhone 5 or Not, Verizon CFO Shammo Bullish on Wireless Goals

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Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo on Thursday fueled further speculation over the release date of the next iPhone, but he made it clear the nation’s largest mobile carrier is bullish on meeting its objectives regardless of the smartphones that are released between now and the holidays.

I think that we are very confident that what we laid out … regardless of what phones come, what phones dont come and what kind of a season it will be we will hit our financial objectives,” Shammo said.

Apple is widely expected to release the next iPhone, often dubbed the iPhone 5, sometime later this year in time for the holidays. Asked Thursday by a Merrill Lynch analyst about the carrier’s declining upgrade rate to new phones in the second quarter, Shammo mentioned Verizon’s $30 upgrade fee and raised the possibility that customers may be waiting to upgrade until a certain phone is released.

“And then of course, there’s always that rumor mill out there with a new phone coming out in the fourth quarter and so people may be waiting,” Shammo said.

Verizon’s CFO didn’t mention the phone, although his remark fueled further rumors over the release date of the most talked about smartphone in the world: the iPhone. It would be unusual if Apple didn’t release a new phone by at least the holiday season; the consumer electronics giant introduced the iPhone 4S in October 2011.

“Obviously the fourth quarter is always a seasonable volume quarter for the industry and I expect that to happen again with the holiday season that’s coming up,” Shammo said. “I’m sure we’re going to have plenty of new devices that come out between now and the holiday season.”

During Thursday’s conference call with Wall Street analysts, Shammo also cited some positive developments since it recently introduced its shared data plans that allow customers to connect up to 10 devices and share data with family. Asked about whether Verizon anticipates facing any “headwind” to its growing average revenue per user (ARPU) thanks to the shared data offerings, Shammo answered in the negative.

Analysts may be concerned that the shared data offerings could disrupt Verizon’s wireless gains in the short-term before contributing to growth. In the second quarter, retail postpaid ARPU at Verizon Wireless rose 3.7 percent over the year-earlier period to a record $56.13. That figure represented the largest growth in three years.

We are actually tracking ahead of where we thought we would be and we dont see any ARPU impact in the third quarter or four quarter,” Shammo said. I think our trend will continue that we have established here in the first and second quarter.”

When Verizon announced its shared data plans, some customers on its unlimited 3G data plan expressed concern they would be forced to move off the old plan. Verizon quickly clarified that customers would only be moved off the old plan if they purchased a new phone at a discount. Some customers are doing so.

We are seeing some 3G unlimited customers move into our 4G shared data plan product,” Shammo added. “That is excellent for us from a cash flow position on capital efficiency and cost reduction metrics.”

Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman with Verizon Wireless, told us earlier this summer that 3G unlimited data customers who purchase a new phone at a discount can choose a Share Everything Plan or one of the company’s nationwide usage-based price plans.


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