Verizon Wireless Samsung Galaxy Will Not Support Google Wallet: FCC Principles to be Tested?

By Gary Kim December 02, 2011

It is understandable why Verizon Wireless, an owner of the Isis mobile wallet service, is not especially anxious to support the rival Google Wallet service that currently runs on Android devices equipped with near field communications capabilities.

Google Wallet, in fact, will not be supported on Verizon Wireless’ version of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone set to launch on the Verizon network in January 2012.

That does raise a rather-obvious question, though. The Federal Communications Commission has established “Internet Freedoms” principles that guide the agency’s thinking and action on Internet-related policy. Among those principles is the freedom to use any lawful application, in a lawful manner.

If Google Wallet is a lawful application, then any Android device capable of running the application should be able to do so, right? If not, do we not have an instance of anti-competitive behavior, where a service provider blocks a rival application because it has a business interest in a competing service?

Set aside “network neutrality” issues for the moment. Blocking of lawful apps, used in lawful ways, not only is FCC policy, but might also become a “restraint of trade” issue. To be sure, the FCC’s current policy is to apply more-rigorous rules prohibiting even packet prioritization on fixed networks, compared to mobile networks. Many would say that is the right approach, if such rules must be applied at all.

But one wonders whether the inability to run Google Wallet on an NFC-equipped Android device, when such devices enable use of Isis mobile wallet services, will provoke a challenge of some sort that would lead to greater “network neutrality” rules on wireless service providers.

It is a bit complicated, to be sure. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus (not the “S” version that Sprint sells, and which does support the Google Wallet) already is available in some other markets, and apparently some “hackers” have figured out how to run Google Wallet on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

The modification is not something most people will want to bother with.  Running Google Wallet on the Galaxy Nexus requires users to get involved in bootloader unlocking and ROM flashing.

The phone’s software also requires some tinkering to make Google Wallet work flawlessly. Jail breaking Google Wallet.

The break-in information supposedly can be found on the MoDaCo forums website, complete with detailed instructions. Once the phone is unlocked, users need to install MoDaCo’s custom ROM. Then the Google Wallet patch must be applied and its permissions changed.

Those tinkerers didn't actually hack Google Wallet; they just changed settings on the phone to let it run Google's payment application. And for now, this isn't something ordinary customers would likely do. But the tinkering did demonstrate that Google doesn't need a mobile operator's cooperation to run Wallet on an Android phone. Google Wallet Doesn’t Need Operators’ OK

It is understandable that Verizon Wireless would not be too eager to enable a rival service on the Samsung device, on its own network. But that is precisely the issue network neutrality supporters rightly have argued must be addressed, namely service providers blocking rival apps, to favor their own apps and services.

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

Contributing Editor

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