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Is Verizon's Announcement Really The End Of Closed Wireless Networks?

Just how open will Verizon Wireless' open network be next year? Will Verizon offer true open network access? Or will the carrier use tiered pricing and other tactics to try to keep unapproved applications and devices off its network?
Just how open will Verizon Wireless' open network be next year? Will Verizon offer true open network access? Or will the carrier use tiered pricing and other tactics to try to keep unapproved applications and devices off its network?In order to get another view on this development, I sat down with wireless analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates for this special Verizon edition of Take 5.

Over The Air (OTA): Welcome back to Take 5 on Over The Air, Jack. Let's discuss today's big news. Does the Verizon Wireless announcement today mean that the wireless walled garden is finally coming down?

Jack Gold (JG): Yes. The walled garden is not sustainable long term, even thought the carriers will resist. Too many market factors will ultimately force the walls down, and this is the first step in that process. Credit goes to Verizon for seeing the trend and reacting, albeit tentatively so far.

OTA: How long until AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile will be forced to follow suit?

JG: I would expect to see them react fairly quickly. If they don't follow, they will eventually be forced into it (the threat of FCC action or government regulations), as consumers demand more choice. Two years from now, I would expect most of the walls to be gone.

OTA: Do you think Verizon Wireless will now join the Open Handset Alliance and become an Android partner?

JG: There is no reason for them not to join in and get some of the PR. However, I don't think Android and the Open Handset Alliance will ultimately be very successful anyway, so there is no long term benefit to Verizon or other carriers to pursue this right now.

Actually, open carrier networks will be of more benefit to Android than the other way around.

OTA: Just how open will Verizon's new open network policy be?

JG: That's not yet clear. They say they will open a lab and test (certify?) new devices. They have not said how they will qualify devices and what the hurdles will be. So at this point, it is anyone's guess if the policy will be pretty loose, or really strict and prohibitive to new devices. Verizon could cause a lot of headaches for device vendors if the testing is a sticking point in deployments.

OTA: Will this decision help Microsoft with the business market? Could it hurt BlackBerry and BES?

JG: I don't think it will have much effect on either Microsoft or RIM. This is more about carriers moving towards commodity status, much like the cable companies. If it opens the market, then smaller vendors who don't currently have a relationship with the carriers could benefit in getting their devices to market, and they may choose to use the Microsoft OS (but will more likely go with Linux). As the market opens for customer choice, it will mean the best products with the most appealing feature sets will win -- not the ones pushed by the carrier.