No insider info here, no leaked secrets, just an aging but wily geek putting himself in the place of Verizon Wireless and guessing how that mobile carrier will handle next year’s rumored iPhone introduction on its U. S. network. I’d go for a knockout punch and I think Verizon will, too.

Apple’s iPhone is coming to Verizon sometime early next year as AT&T loses its exclusive deal for the iconic smartphone. It could be as soon as January. Verizon will want to use this opportunity to grab disaffected iPhone users from AT&T because surveys have shown American iPhone users love their handsets, but not their carrier. So Verizon, which already appears to have the better network, will have to emphasize that advantage. I expect they’ll do so by making the iPhone their first Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G handset.

It’s the network, stupid. To get a big win from whatever huge amount Verizon is no-doubt paying Apple, the company has to steal customers from other carriers, not just get existing Verizon users to buy subsidized iPhones. AT&T’s weakness is its perceived network quality and unwillingness to allow iPhones to act as WiFi hotspots, called tethering. That’s why I think Verizon will make its iPhone LTE capable and allow it to do tethering with the goal of getting AT&T iPhone users to defect in droves.

There are at least 10 million AT&T iPhone users whose contracts are within months of ending, Every one of those users is up for grabs by Verizon.

Verizon can afford to do this because it is protected by that five gigabyte per month bandwidth cap. And since the LTE network went live in 38 cities just last week and will be rolling-out nationwide in coming months, Verizon will have plenty of network capacity to show off. Those first iPhone4G (4V?) customers should get blazing fast performance compared to the overcrowded and under-provisioned AT&T network.

Verizon already offers tethering on its Android phones, so it is logical they’ll continue that with any iPhone, especially since it is doubtful Verizon will throw an LTE Android phone on the network before the iPhone has had a chance to wreak havoc for a few months.  That gives Apple an advantage I’m sure it wants over Google/Android.

All iPhones to date have used GSM networks but Verizon is CDMA, not GSM, so a new radio will be required in any case. Why not, then, go LTE (or, more likely WCDMA/LTE)? By offering a true 4G iPhone, Verizon will get the marketing boost it needs to take back those same iPhone customers it lost to AT&T plus some. Apple, too, will regain an advantage over most competing smartphones. It’s win-win for both Apple and Verizon. And it is noteworthy that Verizon launched LTE without any phones for the network or WiFi hotspots — just a pair of USB adapters for laptops. That’s bound to change, of course, with my guess being the LTE strategy taking-on a decided iPhone caste.

Understand that AT&T, too, has its own LTE network coming. So if Verizon is going to take advantage of clear network superiority, they’ll have to move soon.

At least that’s how I would do it. What do you think will happen?