Verizon Wireless To Open Its Network

In a major shift by a large wireless network provider, Verizon Wireless will open its network next year to applications and devices not provided by the carrier.

The number two wireless carrier announced the move on Tuesday, November 27. Until now, Verizon Wireless and all major wireless providers have required customers to use handsets developed only for their networks.

Under the plan, to take effect by the end of next year, corporate and commercial developers alike will be able to port devices and applications not designed exclusively for Verizon. For those developing applications for Windows Mobile and other platforms, that will allow customers to program and bring their own devices to Verizon Wireless, which will publish technical requirements to developers in early 2008.

“This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices, one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Verizon Wireless president and CEO Lowell McAdam, in a prepared statement.

Verizon Wireless' decision is a major shift, considering until now it had vehemently opposed allowing customers to bring their own devices to its network. However market dynamics are rapidly changing.

Perhaps most notable is that Google earlier this month made good on speculation that it will force the issue. On November 5 Google launched a mobile platform called Android and established the Open Handset Alliance with the backing of T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others. Google has also indicated it might bid on new wireless spectrum that the FCC plans to auction off.

That, along with the growing presence of public wireless LANs and potential high speed wireless network threats such as WiMAX, threaten to loosen the stronghold incumbent carriers now hold. "It's a response to the competitive threats," said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group.

"I think it's a realization that the market is about to change, to be a survivor of the change that's to come you want to be ahead of the change and aggressive and not wait until the change starts taking market share away from you."

Microsoft officials endorsed Verizon Wireless' move. "For Windows Mobile, it just gives more opportunity for our customers to use existing applications that are already developed," said Scott Rockfeld, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows Mobile. "It puts the choice in our customers' hands and lets them decide what experience they want to have."

That choice of course will be limited to devices developed for CDMA networks. Besides Verizon Wireless, Sprint is the other major CDMA-based network. The problem now is that devices don't move very easily between the two CDMA networks, Enderle said.

Some of the more sophisticated devices, including Apple's iPhone, currently are designed for networks based on the competing GSM standard. Networks from AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM-based.

Verizon Wireless said it will offer a testing lab where it will test and approve devices and applications. The company said after it releases its technical standards, it will host a conference to discuss those standards and seek feedback from the developer community.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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