Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings report tomorrow, and the telecom giant has managed to put together the No. 1 wireless carrier in the nation. Yet despite the fact that Verizon's earnings have soared along with the popularity of smartphones and wireless-network use, the company faces a big question: where to get the growth it needs to move on to the next phase of its development.

Investors have long looked at the telecom stocks within the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) as dividend cash cows. But Verizon isn't just a stable, mature business that spits off plenty of free cash flow; it's also part of a fast-growing industry and needs to respond to competitive pressures. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Verizon over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Verizon

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.73

Change From Year-Ago EPS

14.1%

Revenue Estimate

$29.82 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

4.5%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

1

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Can Verizon earnings grow faster in the future?
Over the past several months, analysts have grown slightly more optimistic about Verizon's earnings prospects, boosting their estimates for the June quarter by a penny per share and adding $0.03 per share to their full-year 2013 consensus. The stock has barely budged lately, though, falling just a fraction of a percent since mid-April.

Verizon has done a good job of staying ahead of the curve with its Verizon Wireless network, a joint venture in which Verizon owns 55% and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) owns 45%. With 4G LTE coverage for nearly all of its network, the company is well ahead of rival AT&T (NYSE:T), which offers 4G LTE service in less than 60% of the markets where Verizon's LTE is available.

But the big question that Verizon faces is where to go from here. The company has reportedly been trying to buy out joint-venture partner Vodafone in order to take full control of Verizon Wireless, but the huge price tag for such a buyout presents a tough obstacle. Proposals of breaking Vodafone into parts and letting AT&T take Vodafone's international business while Verizon would take over Verizon Wireless haven't made it anywhere past speculation.

Another potential problem that just recently got investors' attention is Verizon's deal with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) that involves minimum purchase commitments for iPhones. According to one analyst's estimates, Verizon Wireless could fall short of its obligations under the agreement by as much as $12 billion to $14 billion, and it's likely that Apple would demand penalties from the joint venture.

What all this means is that in assessing the Verizon earnings report, it'll be more important to look past the numbers and focus on which strategy the company chooses in its search for future growth. Whether it focuses on organic growth initiatives or rolls the dice with a huge acquisition, the time looks right for Verizon to take the next step forward in the wireless revolution.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns shares of Apple. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Vodafone. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.