Monday, July 23, 2007

Will the US Mobile Industry please open up?

Someday, someone other than John Battelle might write a book titled "MOBILE: the Google story". Aiming to shake things up in the complacent (others might say "Shylock") U.S. mobile industry, Google wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin promising that they would commit to bid at least $4.6 billion in the 700 MHz spectrum (the last one remaining) auctions if the FCC adopts four key platform rules, :

1. Open applications: Consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
2. Open devices: Consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
3. Open services: Third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
4. Open networks: Third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.

This is the latest incident in the ongoing integration of the PC, Internet and the mobile world.

The mobile carriers will come under increasing competition from forces emanating from the internet world, aided by newer technologies such as Wimax, VoIP, WiFi, OpenMoco and by users' own predeliction for the "mostly free" internet.

In short, these are not the mid-1990s - mobile companies, take note. In 2006, British Telecom planned to launch new web services that would directly compete with Google.

As expected, the Google letter has brought forth a flurry of responses from all quarters:

The Carriers, including AT&T have resorted to word play, reasoning Google's requirements "limits competing bids", what this means only AT&T and its lawyers know, what we know that $4.6 billion is no stump change. We also know that Google now can also match the carriers when it comes to lobbying in Washington.

Critics of Google will say that Google wants to plaster the 700 Mhz spectrum with Adsense.
It is not that easy as it seems in a free-for-all mobile field. Users can easily switch to other search service, if they wish - that is the promise of choice.

As a commenter on Techcrunch elegantly puts it:
We have had the “MS Model” where you pay for products like Office, and the “Google Model” where we endure advertisements for free products.

I would like the option for either “Model” in the wireless realm. Not just another part of the spectrum that I pay $ to utilize.

In what is supposed to the be world's most free country, it is a wonder mobile consumers are held hostage by the mobile carriers, using the airwaves that are purportedly owned by the people.

Over to the FCC.

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