The Open Mobile Network

I guess it’s big news that Verizon is opening its network to "any device and any app." It’s particularly big news because Verizon is a CDMA network meaning it’s not as easy to move from one device to another on its network.

I’ve been running whatever device I want on T-Mobile’s GSM network for years. I can run any phone we have in our house on my T-Mobile SIM card; Emily’s iPhone, Josh’s Sidekick, my Curve, Jessica’s old school blackberry, or any one of several older phones that we still keep around in case one of our phones dies.

"Any app" is a bigger promise although honestly I’ve not had any issues downloading third party apps to my Curve. The reason "any app" is a bigger promise is that getting on Verizon’s deck means being able to plug into their billing system.

Can I build an amazon app that lets me buy stuff on Amazon and put the charges on my Verizon bill? Well that would be a truly open network where all the functionality is made available to anyone who wants to run on their network.

I kind of doubt that’s where their head is at right now. But they’ll get there. Open is the new closed.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. L

    This is somewhat unrelated, but it does give consumers some more power in the world of wireless. I found a service at that will run an instant online audit of your wireless bill. I bought 20 uploads and I feel it was well worth it.

  2. Jonathan Greene

    Any app does not mean on-deck. It could be just like it is on my Nokia devices… I install whatever I want without carrier involvement. I use what data I need and don’t buy subsidized phones. I agree it’s good but it will be interesting to see how or if you can unlock and de-VZ a device so it’s clean as though it came from the manufacturer which would truly make it open. We can easily live outside the garden …

  3. Giordano

    Hi Fred,I work in the industry and (as anyone who´s been dealing with carriers for years) I´m suspect of bias, since if you work with them you end up hating them. And that speaks figures on how they behave. Anyway, my two cents…I think it´s mostly a move to counter Google wireless spectrum bidding plans. By announcing the opening of their network, they deflate most of the claims made by Google in Washington in the last months. Plus, they reduce Google incetive to bid high in the upcoming auction, since they say that any third party app or phone (even an Android-powered CDMA phone) will work on their network.As for the opportunity to have any handset working on their network, it´s not a big deal: if you live in the US, you can only get CDMA handsets from Verizon or Sprint Nextel, with a 2 years contract. And US consumers are used to subsidized handsets, so I don´t foresee a rush to third-party stores, if vendors decide to go direct. You could import an handset from Korea, in theory, but few will do that.The big deal is on the applications: apparently, they are not going to certify beyond network compliance. Billing is the issue: will they make billing integration very easy, like it happened in the UK a few months ago? Let´s hope so. Qualcomm´s BREW could be hit, if they open to more Java-supporting devicesWill the other follow suit? Probably, but I don´t see them rushing to it… it will take in my opinion at least 4-5 years to have completely open networks in the US.Anyway, in my view is a strategic move to fend off Google, more than a willingness to transition to an open system.Cheers, Giordano

    1. mca

      I agree with you that Google has “woke up” the carriers here in the U.S. a little. I for one have vowed not to ever have a 2 year contract anymore just to get a subsidized phone. I buy my phones and minutes on E-bay, I use GSM phones. If this is pressure from Google and Skype etc. Then this is what consumers need. I have a pocket pc and can install anything I want on it, I can use T-mobile or AT&T, that is the way it should be. I can change phones whenever I want. I don’t really see how opening a CDMA phone will do much good, I still have to call Verizon to tell them I have a new phone, no thanks. Will I be able to switch carriers like I can on a GSM network? No, When I travel abroad will I be able to use my “open” verizon phone there by popping in a new SIM card? No. It’s time to stop buying into these phone companies contracts. I for one, really am starting to like Google! ……It’s the network 🙂

  4. Stephen L. McKay

    I’m with you as far as opening up all divices = choose your own carrier.As for poking and prodding, glad all went well (no gall stones, or inflamed organs), but that’s so 19th century. What are your blood test results? I’m sure they are on target, and I hope so! That’s where we really know if we are healthy.

  5. Anon

    Given how easy it would be for Verizon (or Sprint for that matter) to start allowing phones from other North American CDMA carriers such as Sprint and Telus, their decision to slowly implement a separate system based on a new set of specifications doesn’t sound very promising for customers.Yes, any move in this direction is a good beginning, but continuing a policy of not allowing non-Verizon phones that work perfectly well on another carrier onto the Verizon network while they roll out an “open network” doesn’t make the Verizon seem all that open for end users.

  6. markslater

    I would be highly surprised if they opened up the billing side of the deck. whats been a major issue for years for the carriers is the fallout to their brand and their business that may come from 3rd party apps being integrated. If i have something on my monthly bill that appears that i dont agree with who do i call? the carrier. Who do i get upset with? the carrier. Whose fault is it? a 3rd party? this is the rub with the billing deck. Your partner Brad knows a good deal about this – we chatted on this very subject some time ago.

    1. fredwilson

      My partner brad knows a lot more than I do about most things. I just talk about them moreFred

    2. mattmaroon

      Also it would essentially make them a bank. They’d essentially be extending credit to customers and run the risk of people defaulting, perhaps even people who, if they didn’t charge up that television on their mobile account, would have gone on paying their cell phone bill forever.There is a lot of money to be made by extending credit too though, so who knows.

  7. Peter Cranstone

    Why do you need to put the charges on your Verizon bill? Why not use Amazon’s flexible payment services. Check out the screen shot on our home page ( we can integrate Amazon’s Flexible Payment Service directly into the browser menu (it changes dynamically based on your context). All you need is an HTTP connection and you’re good to go. You don’t need anyones billing service – just use what’s already there.Peter

  8. Ben Ortega - 5tacos

    I heard the CEO of Embarq say during his presentation that they were moving to a more “open” atmosphere by creating a “simplicity portal” that will allow you to get all the TV, Wireline, Wireless, and Data content you can want. Doesn’t that sound closed?So you’re right, “open” is the new “closed”.Ben

  9. Nate

    Have you tried installing Opera Mini on the Curve? It’s the one app I can’t get working.

  10. danfoss

    That’s where we really know if we are healthy.

  11. Michael Beckner

    Also consider that this isn’t just about handsets, or Google for that matter. This is increasingly about LBS and the ability to capture that market.