Apple is discussing the possibility of bringing the iPhone to the nation's largest wireless operator, Verizon Wireless, according to USA Today.

Negotiations are underway and if fruitful will lead to the device being available to Verizon users sometime next year, according to the report.

To date, Verizon rival AT&T has had the exclusive rights to market the iPhone in the U.S., and according to previous reports the operator is negotiating to retain that exclusive further. And for good reason. The iPhone has drawn substantial interest from new subscribers. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, AT&T added 1.6 million iPhone customers, 40% of which were new to the operator.

However there are substantial barriers to a Verizon-enabled iPhone. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, AT&T has already extended its exclusive deal with Apple once, and is expected to extend it again through at least 2010. Another barrier is the technology. AT&T and Verizon operate two technologically different wireless networks-AT&T using GSM while Verizon uses CDMA. Apple would have to build a completely different phone just for Verizon's networks rather than simply flip a switch and make its existing devices also work on Verizon. Since European wireless operators also use the GMS standard, Apple has been able to manufacture and market just one device to all. Expanding to a CDMA phone will complicate the process.

However in doing so, Apple would gain a substantial new subscriber base. A Verizon deal, would give Apple access to an additional 85 million new wireless subscribers in the U.S. alone, in addition to AT&T's 78 million subscriber base.

UPDATE:
According to BusinessWeek, the two are in talks not for the same iPhone that AT&T currently has the exclusive on, but rather for new devices—an "iPhone lite" and a touchscreen "media pad" that provides wireless access to music, photos, videos and other content. The story relies on unnamed sources, and neither Apple nor Verizon would comment on the potential new devices.