Verizon touts plans for open wireless

Verizon Details Its Open Wireless Plans

By Laura M. Holson, Bits/New York Times

Verizon Wireless’s top executives were out in full force at the company’s first open development conference for mobile phone makers and programmers held at the Millennium Broadway hotel near Times Square. It was the first step in an initiative Verizon began last fall in an effort to open up its network to entrepreneurs interested in creating devices and mobile applications not sold through the company’s retail stores.

The move was unusual because Verizon and to a lesser extent its rival, AT&T, fiercely guard the networks they have built and pay billions of dollars to upgrade and maintain. But about 300 representatives (mostly men in dark suits) from Samsung, Cisco Systems and other companies packed the Hudson Theatre where Verizon outlined its technical specifications and best practices policies for devices created under the new initiative.

The carrier said that only devices that have passed compatibility tests would be allowed on the network. Executives said that Verizon hoped that the certification process would be quick – about a month – although that could vary depending on how much upfront work developers did before applying for certification. Verizon introduced a Web site at which developers can ask questions, give feedback and follow their products through the approval process.

“Our goal is not to have you reinvent the wheel,” Lowell McAdam, chief executive of Verizon Wireless, told the audience.

AT&T, a fierce competitor which does not want to be upstaged by Verizon, has been promoting its own approach to openness in the wake of the news about the Verizon gathering. On Tuesday it sent out a news release saying it would hold events for developers in April “to encourage the creation of new and exciting content.”

Critics of the wireless industry suggest that it has not done enough to promote innovation and that it took the iPhone (created by Apple, an industry outsider) to wake the industry up. To add to that, the notion of “open” has as many different definitions as there are constituencies trying to promote it. Some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs suggest AT&T and Verizon should go the way of the Internet and make their networks freely available to any device or consumer application.

That is not likely to happen anytime soon. But what makes the Verizon initiative so interesting to watch is that it could foretell how the industry responds to the needs of both developers and consumers for the future.

article originally published at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/verizon-details-its-open-wireless-plans....

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