Verizon Wireless to Open its Network to Others' Devices, Software and Apps

November 27, 2007. Verizon Wireless (VW) announced in a release that "it will provide customers the option to use, on its nationwide wireless network, wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company ... by the end of 2008".

The release adds that early next year VW "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."

VW is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin stated in a release [PDF] that "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. I continue to believe that more openness -- at the network, device, and application level -- helps foster innovation and enhances consumers' freedom and choice in purchasing wireless service."

He continued that "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."  See also, Martin's statement [PDF] of July 31, 2007, and story titled "FCC Adopts 700 MHz Band Order" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,619, July 31, 2007.

Martin stated that VW's announcement, along with the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) announcement of November 5, 2007, "is a significant step towards fulfilling these goals." See also, stories titled "Open Handset Alliance Announces Android and New Members" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,670, November 6, 2007, and "Martin Praises Open Handset Alliance Announcement" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,671, November 7, 2007.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, stated in a release that "I am pleased to hear Verizon Wireless's announcement. While we do not yet have all the details, the company's decision appears to be a step forward for consumers. I'd like to see additional carriers listen to their customers and offer a more open platform."

Steve Largent, head of the CTIA, stated in a release that "Over the past several weeks, the wireless industry has repeatedly demonstrated that competitive market forces bring consumers the choices they want and need in a far more efficient and effective manner than can government regulation."

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) stated in its web site that "This announcement represents a major development in the evolution of the wireless communications marketplace, and the policy debate over the more closed policies that wireless carriers have followed to date. CDT applauds the new plan and believes it will spur significant innovation and consumer benefit. In addition, CDT believes the plan will impact the ongoing Internet neutrality debate by confirming the benefits of open network architectures."

Gigi Sohn, head of the Public Knowledge (PK), stated in a release that her group is "cautiously optimistic that it will lead to a more open network in the wireless industry at large".

She also noted that the FCC, "in a rule being challenged by the cellular industryís trade association, endorsed that type of market opening for all carriers in the spectrum auction due to take place next year.

She also stated that VW's announcement "is very limited. If other carriers donít follow the same model, then consumers will still find their phones tied to a specific technology or wireless company. Until they do, an iPhone will still be useless on any network but AT&Tís. In order for an open network to become a reality, all carriers will have to participate."

She also stated that if VW "continues to subsidize cellphones, then the adoption of the open model will be minimal absent a rapid decline in cell phone prices."