Verizon Wireless To Open Its Network, Platform

verizonlabs.gifWhether it is the threat of a Google-led wireless revolution that could cause an upheaval in its empire, or it is just a realization that networks need to be open and customers need choices — Verizon Wireless today announced that by the end of 2008 it will “provide customers the option to use, on its nationwide wireless network, wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company.” [digg=]
Further more, it wants developers to write applications to their platform. Seems like they took a page out of the Google playbook. Given Verizon’s track record of tight control of its network, including the user interface, this is a huge announcement: akin to Mikhail Gorbachev responding to President Ronald Reagen’s call to bring down the walls.

Verizon Wireless plans to have this new choice available to customers throughout the country by the end of 2008. In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated new demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.

One minimum technical standard: the phones (or devices) have to be based on CDMA standards, not the more popular GSM standards. Further thoughts on this later, after the press conference. One thing is clear: Verizon and other incumbents are very, very worried about the siren call of “open networks” and are reacting. My inner sync also thinks that this could be a PR move that will help Verizon win the 700 MHz auction. Verizon can always point to the “openness” as a way to counter Google.
Verizon and other phone companies’ best friend, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, issued this statement, which kinda increases my level of skepticism, and belief that this is an “appeasement” announcement.

I was pleased to hear the announcement by Verizon Wireless…As I noted when we adopted open network rules for our upcoming spectrum auction, wireless customers should be able to use the wireless device of their choice and download whatever software they want onto it….As I said at the time, I had hoped that our auction rules would ultimately encourage all of the wireless industry to adopt a more open and consumer-friendly industry approach.