Don’t get shocked by Verizon Wireless’s pledge to shorten its exclusive mobile phone deals to benefit small wireless rivals: It probably won’t help you, and it won’t hurt Verizon.
Verizon, the biggest U.S. carrier, is trying to make itself look better to the government by vowing that it will allow smaller wireless carriers, with 500,000 customers or fewer, get access to Verizon’s exclusive handsets after six months.
Lovely PR move, but not a game-changer for most consumers or the wireless industry.
While this will be helpful for small carriers in the U.S., this only helps a tiny percentage of wireless subscribers, and changes absolutely nothing for the vast majority of subscribers, which use carriers with more than 500,000 subscribers. For instance, it changes nothing for people who use AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS, Leap/Cricket, Virgin Mobile, iPCS, etc. (And for the same reason, it’s not likely to cost Verizon many customers.)
And because Verizon Wireless uses a technology called CDMA, and many wireless carriers use a rival technology called GSM, it cuts the slice of carriers who benefit even smaller.
For instance, tiny Plateau Wireless, which serves “over 75,000” subscribers in eastern New Mexico and western Texas, would qualify for its size. But because it uses GSM, phones designed to work on Verizon’s network — except perhaps some dual-mode phones — would be worthless.
Then smaller carriers still have to go through the process of negotiating the rights to sell tiny volumes of those phones, pricing, etc. — which is one of the reasons that handset makers engage in huge, exclusive deals with the top carriers in the first place.
Update: We’ve confirmed, after reading Verizon’s letter, that this is only in reference to small carriers — big CDMA rivals like Sprint are still excluded. So it’s even less relevant to most U.S. subscribers.
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