The second largest wireless operator in the US has recently announced it will allow the use of any device and application on its network. The American wireless market is probably one of the few in the world in which customers are not allowed to use any device with the wireless operator they have chosen. Up until now operators have tightly controlled devices and applications users were able to use on their networks: consumers wishing to adopt Verizon as their wireless carrier have to go to a Verizon store and choose from one of the phones offered by the carrier.

Starting from next year Verizon will let consumers buy and use any kind of device and application on its network as long as it will meet the carrier’s “minimum technical standards” (and work on CDMA networks). Users will be able to pay according to the bandwidth used, without restrictions on the kind of applications they can run on their mobile devices (good news also for mobile developers).

Verizon will keep selling phones at subsidized prices in its stores, bundled with network connectivity and other services, but this won’t be anymore the only option available to consumers.

This is also good news for mobile phone manufacturers like Nokia: they will be able to sell directly to US customers without signing exclusive deals with the carrier. It’s also good for FON: devices won’t be restricted as to the connectivity options available and WiFi phones will probably become popular also in the US.

The rationale behind such an important move from one of the largest carriers in the States is quite clear: the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions will force carriers to open their (new) networks to any device, according to the “open access” rules Google has effectively pushed for. Making their existing network more open now could give Verizon an advantage over its competitors.

This move also comes really close to Google’s recent Android open platform announcement: openness is probably becoming a buzzword, but is also the best way to ensure customers get the kind of innovative devices and applications they are increasingly demanding, a chance for Verizon to satisfy more sophisticated users eager to use mobile data applications on compelling devices competing with Apple’s iPhone.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Prolific Programmer on November 29, 2007  · 

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