Verizon Talks 4G and ‘Special Sauce’

Verizon Wireless today clarified reports that it wanted to halve the mobile operating systems it will support in the next several years saying the ideal scenario would be for a shakeout that coalesced the industry around three or four platforms.

“When it comes to operating systems, we support a wide variety, Windows Mobile, Palm’s, RIM’s, and down the road we said we’d offer Android devices, so the issue isn’t that we are going to stop anyone, or say, we’re just going to support these three, that’s not our intent,” Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon’s executive director of corporate communications told

“The issue is really that moving forward, we’d love to see developers, hardware makers and consumers coalesce around a few operating systems because it benefits everyone,” he added.

The benefit, he said, of such a scenario is that it would bring applications to market sooner and to more people if developers didn’t have to choose from so many operating systems when creating applications. “Right now it’s difficult for developers because they don’t get the benefit of scale in the marketplace that they could,” he said.

To that end, CEO of Verizon Communications (NSYE: VZ) Ivan Seidenberg announced in his CTIA Wireless keynote this week that Verizon Wireless has teamed up with China Mobile, Vodafone and Japan’s Softbank to create a single platform to make it easier for developers to create mobile data applications for cellphones.

“Together, our companies represent 1 billion customers worldwide,” said Seidenberg. “That critical mass of customers will accelerate this market to the tipping point and make these useful applications widely available across any device, any handset, anywhere around the world.”

Other highlights of his speech touched on how the wireless market is faring in a recession – answer: pretty good – how Verizon is poised to grow beyond “100 percent penetration,” by moving into health and education industries and taking away consumers’ time from TV and the Internet, and plans for rolling out its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in limited markets next year.

Seidenberg began by saying, “I wish everybody in America could be here to taste the wireless ‘special sauce,’ because in an economy that seems to have forgotten how to grow, the mobile industry keeps reminding us.”

Indeed, he cited stats showing that data accounts for more than one-quarter of service revenues and that 70 percent of wireless users expect to increase use of mobile phones for Internet access and photos and music.

“Sales of smart phones are growing by 30 percent a year, and the Consumer Electronics Association estimates they’ll account for one of every three handset sales by 2011. And just think what will happen when we start using smart phones for the really big things like education, energy conservation and health care,” said Seidenberg.

On the LTE front, Verizon Wireless is touting its time-frame. “We will begin deployment later this year with a few commercially-ready markets and will roll it out to 25 or 30 markets in 2010, with the expectation of faster roll-out thereafter,” said Seidenberg.

He also announced plans for an LTE Innovations Center where the carrier will help product developers assess the potential for various types of products that connect to Verizon’s planned 4G LTE network.

“We plan to launch the Verizon Wireless LTE Innovation Center later this year as an incubator for new products in the areas of consumer electronics, telematics and machine-to-machine products for health care, security and utility metering. Working with our partners, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent, we’ll provide an environment for testing, prototyping, trialing new LTE products and concepts,” he said.

In other Verizon Wireless news from CTIA this week, Anthony Lewis, who heads a unit within the company called Open Development that works to provide access to non-phone devices, said Wednesday that five companies have approached Verizon about wireless connections for e-readers.

Verizon last year allowed third-party hardware vendors to seek certification for their devices to be used on the company’s network, so it would seem that the creators of these devices are planning to set up wireless content distribution, the way the Amazon Kindle uses Sprint’s network to download e-books and other content.

Nelson said, though, that no announcements are “imminent” on the e-reader front. “There’s nothing at this point we’d be offering directly, it would come through open development certification,” he said, “and there’s nothing to announce that’s imminent.”

As for hints that a summer conference for developers focusing on applications means a Verizon app store is on the way, Nelson said, “We’re looking at additional ways of opening up the wireless marketplace and looking at great ways for our customers to get applications. Beyond that, I have no other information to provide.”

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