Verizon and the Open Telephony movement

I recently reported on Google vs. Apple mobile technology, speculating whether Google’s announced plans to open their OS platform to independent developers would alter Apple’s closed-technology position.

The answer remains to be seen, but today Verizon announced their plans to open their mobile network to a variety of hardware providers, not just those models Verizon sells, the New York Times reported.

This move marks a major shift in the industry that we speculate other carriers will have little choice but to follow. If Sprint, ATandamp;T, T Mobile and the others follow suit, people will soon have the ability to select the device of their choice and link it to their chosen carrier, and take the device with them if they decide to change carriers.

This is very, very good news for mobile phone users at large. There will be technical limitations at first: not every device will synch with the Verizon network initially. But it could nevertheless lead to a U.S. mobile market more similar to Europe and Asia, where hardware and telephony services are largely unbundled and individuals benefit from greater choice and competition.

Verizon’s move also underscores a significant difference from Apple’s iPhone, which is currently only available through contract with ATandamp;T, to the dismay of legions of iPhone users who complain of inferior connectivity compared to BlackBerry and other mobile networks.

Verizon’s move has won praise from Google, Microsoft and the FCC, all of who understand that greater choice will inevitably lead to greater innovation and cost competitiveness. Still, many questions remain unanswered, and many technical challenges remain unsolved. But we can all agree that Verizon’s move is a step in the right direction, where consumers and companies may plan an equal role in shaping the future of mobile telephony.