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Verizon to Offer Open Network Option

Verizon to Offer Open Network Option

As the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction deadline draws near, advocates for openness in mobile networks—like Google— have been touting the benefits of open networks that aren’t locked down to devices and services from only a single provider. Open networks, they argue, will fuel innovation and growth in the wireless communications industry by spurring competition and potentially letting anybody with a good idea have a shot at becoming “the next big thing.”

Today, Verizon Wireless decided it wanted a piece of that openness pie, announcing it will introduce an “Any Apps, Any Device” option for its customers in 2008. Under the program, Verizon Wireless customers would be able to use wireless devices and applications not offered by Verizon Wireless on the company’s U.S. mobile network.

Verizon describes the number of customers who might be interested in this “any app, any device” option as “small but growing,” but remains insistent most customers will want to stick with traditional full service mobile plans. “This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices—one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Verizon Wireless president and CEO Lowell McAdam, in a release. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.”

Verizon has not announced any pricing details for its “Any Apps, Any Device” plan, but plans to make the offering available by the end of 2008. And Verizon’s use of the word “any” in its description of the plan is a little misleading: the company plans to publish technical specs for products that want to interface with the Verizon network in early 2008, and only devices which get tested and approved in a $20 million Verizon lab will be allowed on the Verizon network. However, once a device is approved, customers will be able to run “any application” on those devices. Verizon has not announced any costs associated with its device certification process, but plans to host a conference outlining its processes once it publishes the technical specs.

Verizon’s “Any Apps, Any Device” initiative might be best seen as a way to keep the company in the “openness” playing field, which at the moment is dominated by Google, it’s potential buy in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, and its newly-announced Android mobile platform, and the Open Handset Alliance—which does not include Verizon Wireless—that has pledged to back it.

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