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Verizon & Friends Prep LTE VC Fund

Verizon Wireless is working with its vendors and venture capital firms to pull together, as part of its new LTE Innovations Center, "up to $1.3 billion" in funding for early-stage companies developing Long Term Evolution (LTE) products and applications.

Ahead of the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2009 show in San Diego this week, Verizon has unveiled the 4G Venture Forum, a collaboration "designed to facilitate the identification and commercialization of next generation 4G-related technologies."

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon is working with LTE infrastructure partners -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) -- and venture firms, including Charles River Ventures , Northwest Venture Associates , North Bridge Venture Partners , New Venture Partners LLC , and Redpoint Ventures , on pooling funds and spotting LTE talent.

Verizon and friends are moving to put the pieces in place to encourage the growth of LTE products and applications as quickly as possible. The carrier has also just opened a lab and an online portal, linked to the LTE center, to offer support services for developers working with the operator around the new technology. (See Verizon Opens LTE Lab.)

Verizon needs to get as much exciting technology running on LTE as soon as possible to encourage takeup on the faster wireless data network. The operator will be the first in the U.S. and one of the earliest in the world to deploy LTE in 2010. (See Verizon Makes LTE Connection in Boston & Seattle .)

This means, however, that it will largely need to rely on data-centric devices and services to snag customers in the early years. Data cards and USB dongles are so far expected to be available for LTE in 2010. Embedded data devices, like netbooks, tablets, and early handsets, should follow in 2011. "Mass market" LTE smartphones aren't expected until 2012. (See 'Millions' of LTE Handsets by 2012? and An LTE iPhone? Think 2012 (or Later).)

Therefore, anything Verizon and friends can do to encourage more exciting products and applications in the short-term may prove to be a longer-term benefit for the carrier and its ambitious LTE plans.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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