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Verizon Wireless To Open Itself Up

Is this the Verizon Wireless we know: The control-freak carrier that habitually makes phone manufacturers disable features before it will sell their products?

Yesterday morning, the Basking Ridge, N.J., firm announced that it would let customers use a far wider variety of phones -- and any software that they want -- 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.

The whole move seems completely out of character. Verizon has been a force for good in many parts of the wireless business. Most notably, it was the first major carrier to back wireless number portability. However, it's kept a tight grip on the hardware and software of the phones it sells. Cynical observers could be forgiven for wondering if the whole thing is a trap.

From what Verizon's disclosed so far, this all seems to be for real. At a teleconference yesterday morning, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam and other executives repeatedly said the company's compatibility tests would focus only on basic technical standards, would cost little to run and would not be any sort of ordeal. "We do not expect this will be a difficult or lengthy process, since we will only be testing network connectivity," said McAdam.

The company hasn't said anything specific about the pricing of this bring-your-own-device service and doesn't plan to until early next year. But McAdam did say that it would offer "very different" pricing for low-bandwidth devices like utility meters.

During the teleconference, Verizon Wireless executives also said that any phone running Google's Android software would be welcome under this system, as long as it runs on the CDMA standard Verizon and Sprint use. For the same reason, any Sprint phone that passed Verizon's compatibility testing would also pass muster -- but the iPhone, which only works on GSM systems such as AT&T, could not.

I'm seriously intrigued by all this. And you?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  November 28, 2007; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Telecom  
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Why should I start believing Verizon now?

Posted by: Fred Powledge | November 28, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Is any of this retroactive? I've got a phone hobbled by Verizon software. Could I de-hobble the phone I've already got, or would I need to buy a new phone and start from scratch?

Posted by: Ronnie | November 28, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Will they offer free software upgrades at their stores that will enable full Bluetooth capabilities? That would be a very welcome development. I'm scared to hack my phone--a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Posted by: WA2CHI | November 28, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Why is this news? Only because it's Verizon? I've had T-Mobile for years and have used multiple GSM phones not offered by T-Mobile. I can also run any software on the phone that I like. All it takes for GSM is top take out your SIM and put it into a another phone and voila! I can't imagine many manufactures clammoring to make many extra phones for CDMA outside of what Verizon and Sprint would want to offer anyway.

Posted by: Rich | November 28, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm stoked about this. I've always resented verizon for ripping me off. All I want is to be able to find a mildly entertaining game to play while I stand in lines. But they want me to pay $10 a pop for games that may or may not be awful. Or buy their ringtowns. All of which I should be able to bluetooth for free from my pc.

That and I've hated every single cell phone I've had the entire 5 years I've been with them. Maybe now I'll be able to buy something that doesn't suck.

Posted by: ugh | November 29, 2007 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me that VW is moving that much closer to Google everyday. Both parties have an issue with AT&T becoming totally dominant in both the Wireless and Wired Broadband distribution world and need to do something together vs fighting over the left over 700Mhz spectrum (Upper Band C Block).
AT&T 700Mhz Big Move:
AT&T owns and will have a Nationwide License in the Lower Band Spectrum by bidding and winning key licenses in the Lower Band A Block or maybe some B (by the end of the auction). They already own major license in the C Block (purchased from Aloha)and only need fill license in key markets-They could end up with some 40+Mhz of spectrum which gives them a true 4G capability in 700Mhz.
Google needs a Network build partner and access to the Last Mile, VW Wireless wants true Broadband access to Content/Apps for its Wireless (VW)and Wired (Verizon-FIOS)systems-Google can provide all of the above Content Nationwide. VW needs to partner with someone to counter and address the competitive Broadband data delivery. VW also missed out on the iPhone and cannot chance missing out on this auction or they will be marginalized by AT&T's data distribution network.
Lot of synergy here but will they allow it to happen? Vodaphone will support this as well.

Also, watch what Google will do (with their Nationwdie fiber fed network of data centers) in providing a Nationwide replacement for the TV Programming aggregators (like TNN) that deploy TV programming over satellite today to MSO. FiOS and even AT&T would benefit from this Low Latency (Fiber based)stream partially paid for by Ad revenues vs Revenue share from aggregators.

Jim (aka Jacomo)

Posted by: Jim A. | November 29, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

It's so weird reading that the ridiculous lockin still prevails in the US phone market. Honestly I think the US has less competition in many markets than anywhere else on the planet.

Posted by: Mike | November 29, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

This is good news in my opinion, it is about time wireless companies in the US open up their network and allow customers to purchase any device they like an use it on their network. This has been a practice in other continents for very long now, it is quite a bold move by Verizon and it should be congratulated. Of course we should wait an see how this service is to be priced, my hope is that it won't end up costing so much that most people can't afford it.

Posted by: Yves Zouzouambe | November 29, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse


Does this mean that the Motorola Tracfone that I recently purchased exclusively as an emergency 911 portable phone will now interface with Verizon next year?

Its a GREAT phone for only about $17 [when its on sale at area drug stores.] List is still under $50. I could also activate it as a pre-paid backup, but since the minutes expire and I get 2,000 with my existing Verizon plan, which I have yet to reach, thank God, why bother.

Did they say anything about offering free rollover minutes ???

Posted by: | December 2, 2007 2:48 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of unlocking, T-Mobile USA already unlocks their phones (on request) after 90 days.

In addition to AT&T USA, T-Mobile USA is GSM.

Outside of the USA, doesn't most of the world run on GSM?

Posted by: JohnJ | December 3, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Nice analysis Jim, I'm not a EE so you post was very helpful. I'm still waiting to see how the WiMax 802.16x will play into CDMA and GSM fight. I want iPTV and iPRadio(I don't have satelit radio here in Hawaii).

Posted by: Wes | December 3, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

YFRXjz Wow, it can be truth

Posted by: Kandoras | December 22, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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