Today, Verizon reported (gasp) that it is “opening” up its network to any device and any application…that can meet it’s “minimal technical standard”. I’m prepared to swallow my words (see my previous post “Will Verizon Become a More Open Mobile Network for Developers?“), assuming Verizon’s standards (to be published in early 2008) are as reasonable as the press release implies:
Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing 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...
While most Verizon Wireless customers prefer the convenience of full service, the company is listening through today’s announcement to a small but growing number of customers who want another choice without full service. Both full-service and “bring-your-own” customers will have the advantage of using America’s most reliable network.
I want to believe that the world is becoming a more open and mobile place and that Verizon is championing the effort, and Verizon’s release makes it sound like the company is moving in the right direction, but I’ll remain cautiously optimistic until I see Verizon’s execution.
If the ‘minimum technical standard’ is reasonable, it will be a huge step forward for the mobile industry and consumers. However, if that standard includes a requirement for handset providers to put bandwidth constraints on third party applications (i.e. purposefully limiting the performance of 3rd party application “bandwidth hogs” like streaming video apps), the network won’t be truly “open”. *
Here’s the part of the Verizon release that triggers my (ahem) skepticism:
Following publication of technical standards, Verizon Wireless will host a conference to explain the standards and get input from the development community on how to achieve the company’s goals for network performance while making it easy for them to deliver devices.
On the one hand, Verizon says the technical standards they’re introducing are ‘minimal’. On the other hand, they’re going to have to “explain” them to hardware developers in conjunction with their “network performance” goals. Verizon has always closely guarded its network. While it’s possible that Verizon will throw caution to the wind in the New Year as they announce their new standards and become truly open, it’s also possible that they’ll establish a not-so-open standard that hardware developers must compromise to meet.
Here’s hoping that end result of Verizon’s announcement is a truly open network.
*Don’t get me wrong – I understand why Verizon (and other carriers) would want to limit bandwidth heavy applications… They suck resources and if used concurrently can negatively impact performance of a fragile or overstressed network. But, with the amount of money consumers pay for wireless data and calling plans, networks should be investing to ensure robustness. And, it sounds like Verizon is doing that.