Verizon today released its initial set of technical specifications for “open devices” that will run on its LTE network. The specs are avilable at www.verizonwireless-opendevelopment.com. Intrigued, I decided to register, download the specs and read some more about Verizon’s ODI. Verizon also has scheduled a web conference on May 13th that I plan to participate (if you would like me to ask any questions, please post them as comments on the blog)
Devices for LTE
As the first operator in the world to deploy LTE, Verizon must be thinking hard about what to do with the network, especially in the first 12-24 months when there will be few compelling consumer devices and apps. As with EV-DO, the first devices sold to consumers will be data modems. Verizon has also been positioning LTE as a way to address the rural broadband problem and has recommended that its LTE network be included in the national broadband coverage map that NTIA is putting together.
To go beyond broadband coverage, Verizon needs new hardware and software applications that leverage its network. Its competitor, Clearwire, is making the same push and recently announced a WiMAX “sandbox” network in Silicon Valley. The device specifications that Verizon has released at this stage are limited to communication features of the device i.e. how one can get a LTE modem certified. It is a good start. However, before application developers start investing, Verizon will have to provide information on:
- allowed application development platforms and OSs
- pricing – per MB and for “unlimited” usage
- policy towards bandwidth hungry applications like video
- policy towards applications that may be compete with Verizon services
- services offered by Verizon’s to-be-built LTE core
- (and perhaps, more)
Perhaps, some of these questions will be answered on the May 13th call, and more details will appear soon after.
Verizon’s Open Device Initiative (ODI) So far
It is worthwhile to look at the track record of ODI so far. When Verizon announced it last year, it was touted as “Any App, Any Device”. And folks like Gizmodo believed that, “a small company with mobile knowhow can develop and get their iPhone-killer certified and on Verizon’s network with minimal interference”.
Perhaps, that may happen some day, but not yet. The devices Verizon has certified so far are:
- modems for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, from BlueTree, Cal Amp and Telular
- smart grid communication devices from Ambient and OpenWay
- routers for sharing your EV-DO connection from folks like Cisco
- specialized PCs like Motion Computing’s mobile clinical assistant
From the website, it does not seem that the ODI program is very well staffed. For instance, both the devices announed at CTIA on 04/02/09 – Motion Computing’s Mobile Clinical Assistant and Sierra Wireless’s USB 598 – were not listed on the page for certified devices on 04/18/09 . I was able to read all the posts on the developers’ forum (yes, all) in less than 15 minutes and all the Verizon replies were from one person, with many questions unanswered.
Further the ODI program focuses on devices only, not on applications. So, if you want to an application certified, you need to go to http://www.vzwdevelopers.com. The ODI program seems to be limited to device certification. There is no information on how data plans are priced on these devices. That is still a case-by-case discussion.
Even if we believe that no one has submitted an iPhone-killer for approval, it is surprising how few devices have been certified so far. Perhaps there are dozens of devices in the pipeline! At CTIA, Verizon’s Tony Lewis did say that the carrier has been approached by five Kindle rivals (Kindle runs on Sprint’s EVDO network) and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg forecasted the proliferation of M2M devices will lead to 500% wireless penetration. Or perhaps, Verizon has a long way to go in making the process really easy and streamlined.