Is Verizon Really Ready to Open Up Its Network?

Verizon Wireless today issued a call for developers to attend a May 13 conference to learn how to develop devices for the fourth-generation LTE network due to roll out starting in 2010. And in keeping with the requirements set by the FCC when the carrier won the chunk of 700 MHz spectrum at auction last year, there’s a lot of talk about openness and transparency in the announcement. But will Verizon really use this as a starting point to bring open devices to its network, or is this just a way to keep regulators happy?

Verizon hosted this type of conference in March of last year, promoting its openness and calling for developers to build gadgets that would run on its network. Nine months later, in January of 2009, it had fewer than 30 open devices to show off on its 3G network — none of which were consumer-facing. That’s not the level of openness the industry was hoping for.

The mandates associated with the 700 MHz spectrum may change things up a bit, but I’m not terribly confident that healthy competition among devices will result, especially on the voice or even data access card side. Verizon’s CEO has claimed the carrier will see 500 percent subscription penetration with LTE, but my guess is that we’ll see openness geared toward e-readers, MP3 players and M2M applications rather than the ability to port a phone or data card from one LTE network to another. Any device a developer builds that Verizon doesn’t like can still be held up in its testing labs, which means some truly innovative uses for always-on mobility may never see the light of day on Verizon’s supposedly open network.

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