Verizon Wireless has just announced that it will allow customers the option to use, on its nationwide wireless network, devices, software and applications not offered by the company.
In early 2008, the company will publish the technical information companies and developers will need to design products to connect with Verizon’s 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 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.
This doesn’t open Verizon’s network up to every mobile phone on the market. Because this telecom uses the CDMA standard, while most phones use the GSM standard, the collection of potential devices is somewhat constrained.
What Verizon is hoping will happen is that companies will develop new products — and new types of products — that can connect to its wireless network. Company executives, speaking in a conference call today, pointed out that Verizon will never directly offer devices for niche markets; all its phones will be targeted at a broad audience. Today’s announcement will make it easier for others to make niche products with wireless capabilities, from data-collection devices to dedicated streaming video players.
Not Exactly a Breakthrough
When a telecom as large as this one does anything it’s always significant, but Verizon’s not really breaking new ground here. GSM carriers have offered something similar for years.
People with an "unlocked" GSM phone can put a SIM card into it from any telecom and it will immediately connect to that telecom’s network. This is true of some of Verizon’s top competitors, including AT&T and T-Mobile.
A Dual System
Verizon is emphasizing that it will continue to offer a line of mobile phones through its retail and business-to-business channels, and provide standard customer service to customers who buy these.
"Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience," said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and CEO.
Naturally, the telecom will continue to extensively test its own products for both usability and compatibility with its network. Third-party products will only have to pass a basic set of test to ensure compatibility with Verizon’s network, and ensuring that they are easy to use is up to the company that produces them.
Show Me the Money
Of course, Verizon is still going to expect people to pay for accessing its network, However, at this point it’s not willing to give specifics on this. All that company executives said is that monthly fees will be competitive with what other telecoms charge.
It also isn’t giving specifics on what it will charge to to get a device certified on its network, but an executive said this will be "surprisingly reasonable".