Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Verizon Wireless' limited open access

Verizon Wireless opens up. Under the new 'any apps, any device' strategy anybody can submit products to a VZW lab for certification. The company will publish details 08Q1, and hold a developer conference. New products are to hit the market 08H2.

So what does this mean? I think the company is opening up in a limited way, with only one goal in mind: retain (or even win) market share.

Here are my takes:

1. It's a defensive move.
  • VZW responds to having lost its battle with the FCC over the upcoming 700 MHz auction. Of course, any relation to the auction is denied. An operator in the C-block will be held to allow 'any device, any application' onto its network. Don't be surprised to see Verizon effectively keeping new entrants out of the market by bidding up the value of this piece of spectrum.
  • VZW does not want to lose out against Apple's iPhone, Google's Open Handset Alliance, Nokia's Ovi, or any other open platform (WiFi, WiMAX).

2. A positive move, but crucial info is lacking.

  • Obviously, the user will benefit. More devices and more apps will come to the market. Those in favor of more openness are in favor. Also, when markets (such as mobile data) need to be broken open to the masses, any initiative is helpfull.
  • On the conference call, the company ackowledged the possibility of vendors entering the market directly; existing Sprint devices should be allowed to work on the verizon network (once certified). The final question on the call painted a picture of Verizon 'stealing some of the subsidy' that a subscriber got from his original provider.
  • Pricing details are unavailable. On the conference call, the company said it should be a 'competitive' offering. However, it doesn't look like new devices will be subsidized. Service plans will be 'basically usage based', so no unlimited use here (whatever that means, in the wireless space). On a positive note, the operator could experiment with true usage based models and see how it works. Walled gardens could gradually be opened up without introducing a 'broadband incentive problem'. Can they do the rebalancing act?

3. Not really open because of technical preconditions.

  • There are several technical preconditions. Devices must work on CDMA technology, so Apple's iPhone or any GSM device cannot be ported. It remains to be seen which 4G technology will be chosen.
  • Any OS will do. Both BREW and Java will be allowed as distribution systems.
  • In the end, the VZW lab will decide. It remains to be seen how transparant the certification process will be. By the way, Verizon claims certification will be a swift for a 'surprisingly reasonable' fee.

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