In a major break with industry practice, Verizon Wireless said it will allow consumers to use any compatible cellphone on its network and allow open access to the Web and third-party applications.
It's is a reversal for the No. 2 US carrier, which is known to be particularly protective of its network, and an acknowledgment of the direction of the wireless industry. Google is spearheading a similar move with its Android open-standards software platform and already counts Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA as allies.
Devices would still have to be compatible with Verizon's technology, and for now, that excludes Apple's iPhone. Verizon uses a cellular standard called CDMA, which differs from much of the world and that of the nation's largest carrier, AT&T. Sprint is the other major wireless carrier that uses CDMA.
Verizon, AT&T and other carriers now sell phones and service as a package, limiting the types of devices customers can use. Carriers traditionally have decided what applications most consumers see on their cellphones, setting rules and negotiating fees for software developers to gain access. Along with Google's foray into the wireless industry and Apple's recent decision to allow third parties to develop software for its iPhone, regulators have been pushing for increased openness.
John Stratton, chief marketing officer for Verizon, said he envisions devices beyond the standard cellphone being created for the network. This includes gaming devices or appliances. "It's subject to imagination," he told reporters in a conference call. "It encourages anyone who wants to get in the game to get in the game."
Verizon's announcement comes just two months before the FCC auctions off a large chunk of lucrative radio spectrum, which wireless networks are based on. Whatever company acquires a swath of that airwaves will have to allow any phone and any software to operate on the wireless network it builds. Verizon Wireless had strongly opposed the rules requiring open access, as it had become known. But it had been one of the companies expected to ultimately bid for that spectrum, which would allow it to substantially bolster its national wireless network. (info from The Wall Street Journal)