It a potentially dramatic move, Verizon Wireless is saying that it will allow customers to use phones and applications that it does not specifically sell. As a practical matter that potentially means that a mobile consumer could buy any phone and use it with the Verizon network, so long as the phone meets certain technical specifications.
From the press release: 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. 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.
Immediately the question arises: “Does that mean I can use the iPhone with Verizon?” The short answer right now is no, because Apple won’t allow it. Eventually the answer will be yes, however. (But see postscript below.)
The move is seen partly as a response to Google’s Android and Open Handset Alliance initiatives and it starts to make the US a bit more like Europe, where any phone can be used with any network. Indeed, this announcement effectively makes Verizon part of the Open Handset Alliance because any Android phone will presumably be allowed on the Verizon Network, assuming the basic technical criteria are met.
Postscript: Danny prompted me on an important technical issue that I forgot about in my enthusiasm: AT&T and T-Mobile support GSM, “Global System for Mobile communications,” while the other major US carriers, Verizon and Sprint, support CDMA (“Code Division Multiple Access”). The iPhone is a GSM phone, so it wouldn’t work on Verizon’s network as a practical matter.