Verizon Says You Can Port From Sprint, Build Your Own Phone

Click to viewWe just got the juicy details on the Verizon Wireless Any App, Any Device initiative going live in the second half of next year, helping them catch up to the GSM/SIM phone swapping capabilities of TMO and AT&T. The big answers, from the company heads:

• Yes, you will be able to port existing CDMA phones from Sprint—or Korea—to Verizon, provided they operate on the correct frequencies.

• The cost of certification for BYO phones will be "very reasonable", and that even an at-home tinkerer could feasibly submit a device for approval.

• Previously Verizon only tested phones that could sell in the hundreds of thousands of units; now it will be happy to approve devices that require much lower volume.

• This is for CDMA products only. The iPhone ain't gonna port, even though several reporters seemed to not understand why. Here are more details:

• There will be no problem with Java-powered CDMA phones running on VZW, even though the carrier is so partial to BREW.

• The testing process will involve than basic network interactivity and a simple security screen so that devices that could upload malware to the network won't get through.

CTO Dick Lynch on homemade devices:

If somebody has the technical capability of building a device on a breadboard and they want to bring it to be tested, the philosophy of this program says "Have at it!" If it is tested and passes, it can get on the network. Does it make it hard to be the small guy on the block? Not now, with availability of components, etc. The provider of the device would have some fee that they would pay. I think it's going to be surprisingly reasonable - it's not gonna have many many zeroes on the back. They will be very reasonable fees for professional services rendered.

CEO Lowell McAdam on what might turn up:

This isn't just phones—itcould be a very small module in a gaming station, a home appliance, something that goes into your car. It doesn't have to have the traditional distribution or volumes. [Traditionally] if a device is not going to sell hundreds of thousands, it's hard to decide because of our scale. But now, if something only sells five, now it can be on our network.

McAdam on porting from other carriers:

If somebody wants to bring a device over from any other CDMA carrier or somewhere else, if it passes the test and operates on our frequencies, they can. [Can someone move from Sprint to Verizon?] The short answer is "Yes."

Of course, this is all about device availability, not about the services and fees for service. The honchos admit that there will have to be new plans and open discussion of bandwidth caps.

Depending on the type of device, different usage models will apply. If there's a device that only access network once a month to update, the idea of a utility meter reading comes to mind. If it's doing video download, something else makes sense.

The topic of Google's Open Handset Alliance came up, but the response was fairly boilerplate, and indicated that Verizon was more likely to test popular Android models on its standard service offering, a la Treos, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile devices. Verizon reminded reporters constantly that BYO was, after all, just augmentation of its standard business model, not a total change. I for one am happy about it, but this is too early to know what will come about. [Press Release]