Verizon Says It Will Open Network to "Any Apps, Any Device" in 2008

Illustration for article titled Verizon Says It Will Open Network to "Any Apps, Any Device" in 2008

In a startling announcement, Verizon Wireless pledged today to offer its network to "wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company." We're a bit surprised, given the network protectionism that Verizon is known for. According to the release, Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and chief executive officer, didn't say this was a change of tactic, but rather an enhancement of service offerings "for customers looking for a different wireless experience." As you'd expect, there seems to be a small catch:

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.

So, it's not like you can build your own phone in the basement, then call VZW to apply service. But the press release does mention a conference Verizon will host, "to explain the standards and get input from the development community."

We have so many questions—Why is Verizon doing this now? Who is the target manufacturer for these "BYO" phones?—that we'll be hopping on a call soon to hopefully get to the bottom of it. [Verizon Wireless]

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Here's a piece of PR masterwork from the folks at Verizon. For those who have been following the Open Platform debate (an initiative to require an open platform for interconnection of any devices/applications on a small piece of the upcoming 700MHz band that's going to be auctioned in January), you know that Verizon has been 100% against the idea. Verizon has been so entirely against the idea that they contacted the Chairman of the FCC asking that he kill it (which ended up with me and other members of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition in his office working to defend the open platform auction requirements) while, at the same time, they sued the FCC to prevent open platform requirements from going through. Verizon, in a nutshell, hates the idea of an open platform for the interconnection of devices and applications.

So what's this news really about? Basically, Verizon wants to be able to charge customers (at a price and rate still to be set) to access the services and applications they want on the devices they own. Verizon is, attempting to turn the applications you have bought and paid for (or downloaded for free if you're using free open source software) into commodity so that they can charge you a second time to access them on their network. In essence, Verizon is adding a corporate tax that goes straight into their coffers for the so-called "privilege" to run the services and applications you want, on the devices you've already bought and paid for.

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