CTIA Preview: Open, open, open -- but what does open mean?

"Open" is the hot buzz word in the industry right now--everyone is talking about open networks, open APIs and open operating systems.  If you have a wireless product or service, just attach the word "open" to it and people will pay attention.

But what does "open" really mean? The definition of an open network is cloudy at best. At the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment conference last fall, carrier executives such as T-Mobile's Robert Dotson and Verizon Wireless' Lowell McAdam offered up some vague definitions of open, which left many questioning the term "open" more than ever before.

We hope there will be more clarity on open networks during the upcoming CTIA Wireless 2009 conference. Some operators, such as Verizon Wireless, are close to linking open networks to their LTE deployment (the FCC requires the carrier's newly acquired 700 MHz spectrum to have provisions for open devices and open applications).  Others consider the ability to use unlocked devices with a SIM card on a GSM network as the true definition of "open."

Open is also key to the vision of wireless being embedded in every consumer electronics device. Whether you call it "embedded" wireless or machine-to-machine communications, this burgeoning area is getting a lot of traction. At CTIA, there will be lots of companies talking about their embedded strategies. Pay close attention to those that talk about managing the customer relationship--because that is going to be key to making this space a success. Verizon's vice president of open development Anthony Lewis and Glenn Lurie, AT&T's president of emerging devices, will both be involved in lots of panels and presentations about embedded devices at next week's conference. Both are participating on a FierceMarkets embedded wireless panel, along with Sprint's Todd Rowley, April 1 at 2:15 p.m. as part of the "Path to 4G" event, co-located at CTIA.  In addition, Lurie will be speaking on CTIA educational panel, "Enabling Consumer Electronics with Wide-Area Connectivity," April 1 at 3:30 p.m.