Verizon to open network to more phones

Cell phone in a Verizon store.

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: Speaking of green marketing -- wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to trash your phone whenever you switch cellular providers? It has become a classic dilemma for consumers. You like the cell phone, but you don't like the network it's tied to. Well, can you hear me now? Verizon Wireless says it's going to give consumers more choice. It plans to open up access to its network in 2008, and it's bound to have company.

Janet Babin reports from the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


JANET BABIN: What "open access" means is that Verizon customers will be able to buy whatever compatible phone, or software they want -- even if it's not made by Verizon. Analyst Linda Barrabee, with Yankee Group, says the new applications we'll be using on Verizon's open network, might not even exist yet.

LINDA BARRABEE: Whether it's a gaming device, whether it's an iPhone-like device, or an iPod-like device, it might be something that you tie to your shoe . . .

Daniel Berninger, with wireless communications company FWD, says Verizon's move is a counter to Google's recently announced open handset project. Berninger says Verizon needed a new model, because the old walled-garden approach, where the carrier provides music, games, videos and news, wasn't working.

DANIEL BERNINGER: You know, they're not putting iTunes out of business with their music offerings. They're probably at maybe 1 or 2 percent market penetration. You know, the same goes for gaming and video.

Verizon may be positioning itself to bid on new airwaves. Charles Golvin, with Forrester Research, says the upcoming federal auction requires companies to be open access.

CHARLES GOLVIN: And I think part of what Verizon has done is to put the foundation in place to be able to meet those requirements.

Verizon open access will be available by the end of 2008. Other companies like Sprint and T-Mobile could be next.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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