Verizon Wireless opens its network
Verizon Wireless, the second-largest mobile telco in the US, has spent nearly $10Bn to buy the "C Block" of US analogue television broadcast frequencies – but the band will be open to other companies' devices. This is not by Verizon's choice – this is one of the terms of the deal – but it could be a sign of future openness in the use of the "white space" airwaves.
Mobile telecommunications providers are notorious for controlling which devices and which software they allow onto their networks. Apple's iPhone, for example, officially only works on AT&T in the US, O2 in the UK and T-Mobile in Germany, and so on. Verizon Wireless plans to implement a far more open approach for its block of the US analogue TV spectrum – and device manufacturers as well as application developers all over the world are taking note, reports Technology Review.
The tentative opening of the network has been prompted by regulatory guidelines. In March, Verizon, the second largest mobile telecommunications provider in the US, paid a total of $9.63Bn for the right to use frequencies which will become available when analogue TV is switched off in the US in 2009 – specifically, the area called the C block, around 700 Megahertz. The 108 individual licenses purchased by Verizon were granted on the condition that the network will be open for all devices – not just for those of one individual mobile telecommunications provider.
Tony Lewis, Vice President for the "Open Development" area at Verizon Wireless, talked about his company's concrete plans at the Mobile Internet World conference in Boston in October. The project is considered comparatively ambitious for the US mobile telecommunications industry, which often trails behind its European counterpart: a new generation of devices is to be allowed access to the network. However, it is also clear that the network will be opened according to Verizon's conditions – and that every single piece of hardware needs to be certified.
Lewis explained that Verizon will develop a separate system for certifying third-party devices which will operate in parallel with the company's own processes. Apart of the usual mobile phones, the Verizon executive expects an "explosion of devices" that can use the network – from industrial machines to household appliances. This is to open up new markets beyond the mobile phone sector, which has largely reached saturation also in the US. "This is about connecting anything possible to the network", said Lewis. Among the devices could, for example, be a health monitor that checks whether elderly patients have taken their medicines at the prescribed time and alerts family members if this is not the case. Household appliances can automatically call a repair service when vital components fail. An "intelligent fridge" that orders supplies when important groceries run low is also conceivable.
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