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Verizon Wireless eyes first international LTE roaming partner this year

Customers purchase the iPhone 4 shortly after the phone went on sale with the Verizon Wireless network in Boca Raton, Florida February 10, 2
Customers purchase the iPhone 4 shortly after the phone went on sale with the Verizon Wireless network in Boca Raton, Florida February 10, 2

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless expects to sign its first international roaming agreement later this year for customers of its fastest wireless service who travel overseas, according to a top executive for the No. 1 U.S. mobile provider.

While Verizon Wireless has 200 partnerships with overseas operators for its older, third-generation mobile service, it has not yet been able to set up agreements for its fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) data service, which was first offered in the United States in late 2010.

Verizon Wireless Chief Technology Officer Nicola Palmer said on Monday that roaming agreements have been delayed because many operators are behind in upgrading their networks and some countries have yet to auction the wireless airwaves that carriers would need to upgrade to LTE.

"So getting 4G roaming for our customers is going to take a while," Palmer told Reuters at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. "These relationships will take some time to put in place."

While more traditional roaming agreements involve both voice and data services for cellphones, Palmer said the company could provide "data only roaming offers so for devices like tablets."

Palmer declined to say who the first partner would be, but noted she would spend her time at the annual event this year discussing LTE roaming deals.

Such deals would also involve foreign visitors roaming on Verizon Wireless' network when they are in the United States, she said.

Another company representative, Thomas Pica, said Verizon Wireless would have roaming in place in several countries including Canada in 2014.

Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Writing by Sinead Carew; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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