Did Verizon block the Nexus 7 to push its Ellipsis 7 tablet?

In September, Verizon promised Google's Nexus 7 would come to its LTE network "shortly." Now it has introduced an LTE-capable tablet. What gives? Crave's Eric Mack went looking for answers.

Verizon Ellipsis 7 Nexus 7
Did Big Red snub the Nexus 7 to make room for the Ellipsis 7? Verizon Wireless

On Tuesday, Verizon Wireless officially introduced its 7-inch Android tablet, the Ellipsis 7 , which boasts 4G LTE connectivity and seems to be a competitor to the likes of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX.

This is of particular interest to anyone who remembers that Verizon has been delaying 4G LTE activation of Nexus 7 users, despite that the Nexus 7 is compatible.

Taking an active Verizon SIM card out of another device and slipping it into a new Nexus 7 reportedly will allow the tablet to connect to Verizon's LTE network, but the company won't activate a new SIM specifically for the device. Back in September, Verizon addressed the issue with a statement:

The Google Nexus 7 is not yet a Verizon 4G LTE-certified device, though it entered our process in August and we expect it will be certified shortly. Once the device is certified, we will work with Google to enable the device to be activated on our 4G LTE network.

It's been several weeks since that statement, a time frame that stretches all possible definitions of the word "shortly." Verizon says the process typically takes four to six weeks, which would seem to indicate that certification of the Nexus 7 is at least a month late at this point. Couple that apparent delay with the Ellipsis 7, which Verizon describes as "the first product from Verizon Wireless in the Ellipsis family," and it's easy to imagine a plan to keep the Nexus 7 off Verizon's LTE network permanently.

However, today CNET received another statement from Verizon, which said:

During the certification process for the Nexus 7, Google, Asus and Verizon uncovered a systems issue that required Google and Asus to undertake additional work with the Jelly Bean OS running on the device. Since Google was about to launch its new Kit Kat OS, rather than undertake this work, Google and Asus asked Verizon to suspend its certification process until Google's new OS became available for the Nexus 7. We're continuing to work on this and will share any other updates as they become available.

Regardless of its reasons for the delay, some Verizon customers -- most notably tech pundit Jeff Jarvis -- believe the carrier could be in violation of Federal Communications Commission rules by keeping the Nexus 7 off its network. He filed a complaint with the commission to that effect in September.

I spoke to Jarvis briefly on Tuesday. He was less concerned about the notion that Verizon could be keeping the Nexus 7 down to help prop up the Ellipsis 7 than he was about the FCC acknowledging his grievance. He sent a follow-up letter to the entity today, again requesting that it order Verizon to connect the Nexus 7 to its LTE network.

The letter briefly addresses Verizon's new tablet, with Jarvis noting that "of course, Verizon is free to sell its own device ... But that should have no impact on its support of other devices on its open network and it certainly does not excuse Verizon for refusing to connect the Nexus 7. The fact that Verizon has its own similar tablet is only more reason that it must be compelled to support the Nexus 7 or else its 'open' network is not open at all."

Jarvis told me he has yet to hear from the FCC.

The thing with the Ellipsis 7, of course, is that it will compete with the Nexus 7 and numerous other tablets currently certified for use on Verizon's network -- a handful of which are also sold in Verizon stores. So, to see this strictly as a duel between Verizon and Google is surely a bit narrow-minded.

Meanwhile, the Ellipsis 7 goes on sale Thursday in Verizon stores for $249. While the tablet's specs underwhelm a bit when compared to the Nexus 7, a $100 discount will be offered for a limited time with a new 2-year contract.

Update, 12:57 p.m. PT: Updated with new statement from Verizon.

 

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