Verizon to open up network in 2008

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Pubic relations posturing or harbinger of change? It's hard to say at this point, so let's just take this at face value for now: Verizon Wireless, widely regarded as the most "closed" of all U.S. mobile network operators, has announced that it will open up its network to "wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company." "In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network," the company said in a statement. "Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network... Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices."

While the announcement certainly came as welcome, if shocking, news, it also generated more questions than it answered. Earlier this morning, a few Verizon execs hosted a conference call, in an attempt to clear up some of the confusion. Looks like you'll be able to port over certified handsets--from other CDMA carriers like Sprint or international markets like Korea--for use on the Verizon network, though it's unclear exactly how you'll go about doing this. Verizon is also planning to keep the cost of certification "very reasonable", so that even hobbyists could create devices for use on the Verizon network.

"This isn't just phones-it could be a very small module in a gaming station, a home appliance, something that goes into your car," Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said. "[Traditionally] if a device is not going to sell hundreds of thousands, it's hard to decide because of our scale. But now, if something only sells five, now it can be on our network."

So why open up the network all of a sudden? The simple answer is that Verizon feels an increasing amount of pressure--from the Open Handset Alliance, Sprint's XOHM network and even the iPhone SDK--and decided to get in front of the trend before it was too late. But is that really all there is to it? And will Verizon really make good on this promise of openness? I suppose we'll all just have to wait and see.

For more on the announcement:
- see this press release
- and this Gizmodo article