Verizon joins global mobile software push

The company is joining up because it believes the glut of mobile OSes is delaying app development and distribution

Verizon Wireless will join the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) created by China Mobile, Softbank, and Vodafone to help standardize mobile application development and get new software out to mobile users more quickly.

JIL, formed last April, is working on creating a single mobile platform for developers that would allow applications to be run on multiple operating systems. It plans to launch a common mobile widget specification and other developer tools later this year. The widgets will be small applications that provide information such as weather and news. After widgets, JIL will move on to games, Verizon said.

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Verizon Communications Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg announced the move in a keynote address Wednesday morning at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas, and at a news conference where he and other executives addressed several issues the carrier is working on.

Verizon is backing the initiative because it believes there are too many mobile operating systems to work with and certifying applications across eight or nine operating systems, plus many different handsets, has slowed the delivery of new software to subscribers. The carrier would like to see that number reduced to three or four major operating systems in the next two years.

Working with the JIL standard and with that smaller set of major OSes, developers will be able to reach most devices worldwide, said Lowell McAdam, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, at a news conference on Wednesday. Together, the four partners say they represent more than 1 billion mobile users worldwide. Software developed for JIL will be able to reach customers in more than 70 countries, the JIL group has said. For Verizon, the standardization means being able to bring applications to subscribers in weeks rather than months, he said.

Verizon is early in planning for trials with its high-speed LTE (Long-Term Evolution) data system, but it expects to have LTE networks built in two cities this year and deploy networks commercially "very early" in 2010, McAdam said. By the end of next year, the network should reach 100 million potential subscribers nationwide, he said.

The need to build fat pipes to connect LTE base stations to wired networks won't hamper deployment, McAdam said, because the company is working with vendors on a program to deploy 50M bps (bits per second) or 100M bps Ethernet connections to all its base stations. By the time that backhaul is needed with the higher wireless network speeds, 95 percent of the sites should have it, Seidenberg said. The mobile operator can bring to bear Verizon Communications' own FIOS network and the fast wired networks of Verizon Business, he pointed out.

LTE deployment doesn't mean Verizon's CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) network is going away anytime soon. CDMA infrastructure, which delivers all Verizon Wireless voice and data services today, will probably be in place for five to seven more years, McAdam said.

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