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Verizon Wireless' Neutrality 'Offer' is Neutered

A Google News search on this week's neutrality announcement by Verizon
Wireless showed hundreds of articles and blog entries, most overwhelming
positive in their praise of the wireless carrier. But don't be fooled:
Verizon Wireless wants to curry consumer favor, and what it's offering with
its 'Any Apps, Any Device' is really no gift at all.

Verizon Wireless' first 'offer': "technical standards the development
community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon
Wireless network". Are CDMA standards new? 3GPP2, the global standards
body for CDMA technologies has been around for years. And if someone claims
that the 3GPP lacks down-in-the-trenches relevancy, the CTIA performs
testing plus there's the CDMA Certification Forum. Even if Verizon Wireless
doesn't already have its own detailed standards, they definitely rely on
those from standards bodies, associations, and third-party testing companies
(e.g. NEWS IQ and Intertek). You can be sure that manufacturers of CDMA products are
well aware of Verizon Wireless' requirements, after all, they're looking to
make sales, not dangle trinkets in a carrier's face. In fact, Verizon
Wireless has been so detailed in its requirements that some phone models had
specific Bluetooth features disabled, which led to lawsuit which they

There's an additional but more subtle level of irony in the press release.
From the language it's clear that consumers are part of its intended
audience, but consumers aren't in the position to pay the money to get their
phones tested, not to speak of designing and bringing new devices to market.
This 'offer' is also not going to be the catalyst that spurs a group of
entrepreneurs to create a new device. The existing handset and chipset
manufacturers dominate the mobile device market, and anyone looking to build
some kind of new device will more likely to talk to a component vendor such
Novatel Wireless or Sierra Wireless than design something on their own.
Verizon's "bring your own device" offer means nothing to the consumer, who
will not be able to elicit anything more from the mobile device ecosystem in
the future than they could do today.

Verizon Wireless' second 'offer' around software applications is just as
hollow. Verizon Wireless has never restricted applications per-se. It's
true that BREW created a somewhat closed application ecosystem, but feature
phones also had a limited user interface and an operating system with
limited capabilities. With the rising market share of smartphones with
larger and color screens, and perhaps a keyboard or touch screen, cellular
data services, and running on mobile OSes such as Windows Mobile 5 or 6,
Symbian, and RIM, significantly more advanced and complex applications are
possible. Developer toolkits for these mobile OSes have been around for a
long time and customers can install the applications on their own. Wireless
carriers around the world are giving up trying to created a walled garden
around applications, and real enterprise applications ran on smartphones,
which were never closed. Again, Verizon Wireless doesn't offer anything to
the consumer that they couldn't already have with the appropriate phone.

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