Verizon's "Open" Network Will Really Be Two-Tiered

verizon-logo.pngVerizon’s newfound openness when it comes to its wireless network is not all that open after all. As I reported yesterday, Verizon Wireless announced that it would allow “any device” and “any app” to operate on its existing network. But that is not exactly so.

By “any device” Verizon means you can bring any CDMA device to its network. Verizon has a CDMA network, so only CDMA phones will work on it—fair enough. It was always clear about that. But what exactly does it mean by “any app”? I dug a little deeper and asked Verizon whether any of the new apps developed for the bring-your-own devices would also be available to its existing customers who bought their phones through Verizon. The answer for now is, “No.” Although a spokesperson tells me that they are looking into it. Unless it figures that out, Verizon is not really building an open network. It is building a two-tiered network: One for its preferred customers who play by its rules (i.e., its current 64 million subscribers), and one for the rabble not satisfied with its choice of phones and apps.

If there is no crossover capability on the apps, then the “open” part of Verizon’s network will be barren. The appeal of developing an open app for Verizon would be to gain access to those 64 million subscribers. Nobody is going to go through the trouble of creating apps just for the handful of people who want a CDMA phone that Verizon does not already sell. Making the whole open network even less appealing will be the fact that these phones are not likely to be subsidized by Verizon, and thus far more expensive.

Unless Verizon creates at least the semblance of a level playing field between the open part of its network and the closed part (where all the subscribers are), then all the talk about open networks will remain just that. Talk. And Verizon knows how cheap that can be.