Google Open Access Moves Threaten Verizon 4G iPhone

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-02-28 Print this article Print

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If you're a Google Watcher, you remember how the company tried to throw a wrench into Verizon Wireless plans by bidding for 700 MHz wireless spectrum three years ago.

Verizon ultimately won the auction, paying $4.7 billion for spectrum it would use to construct its 4G LTE wireless network, which is launched in December.

As I wrote in March 2008, Google was the real winner there because its involvement in the bidding process led the Federal Communications Commission to insert "open access" rules to ensure that the carrier who won the C-block spectrum must allow the use of any hardware or software so long as it won't damage its network.

The result is a liberation of handsets, tablets and applications connecting to the Web, fueling more digital advertisements for Google.

But the FCC stipulation may also be a blow to any future 4G iPhone on Verizon, as Wired noted:

And depending upon how you interpret the rules, which Verizon fought in court before the auction, they also required that the wireless carrier only offer devices that are open and able to run any app. That interpretation would clearly rule out the iPhone, which is locked down by design, and only apps approved by Apple can be loaded onto the device without breaking the device's warranty.

Why is this good for Google? Because it could mean Verizon, which has propelled Google's Android mobile operating system into the limelight with its Droid lineup, wouldn't be able to sell future versions of the iPhone tailored for its 4G network.

These are devices Verizon said it wanted to sell but that Apple COO Tim Cook indicated at the first Verizon iPhone last month were not currently forthcoming because it would force Apple to make design sacrifices.

Design considerations may not matter if Google's interpretation of the FCC rules are accurate, as Markham Erickson, a technology lawyer and the executive director of the Open Internet Coalition told Wired:

The interpretation that the rules would ensure all handsets sold by the licensee would be unlocked was the clear intent from Chairman [Kevin] Martin at the time."

Verizon of course interprets the rules as meaning it must allow any third-party app or device that doesn't harm the network, but can still sell restricted devices and restrict apps on those devices.

As in, the iPhone, which Verizon offers now on its 3G CDMA network, which does not leverage the 700MHz spectrum Verizon uses for its 4G LTE network.

I don't know if Google intended to block the iPhone by bidding on the spectrum and getting the FCC to attach rules to its use in 2008, but if this is the case I say well played Google, well played.

It will be interesting to see how and if Verizon navigates this when it tries to sell the iPhone on its 4G LTE network, possibly later this year of in 2012. |

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