back to article FCC opens curtain on Google puppetmaster

Late last week, the US Federal Communications Commission revealed that the battle for the much-discussed 700-MHz wireless spectrum played out just as The Register suspected. Verizon won the coveted C Block, but it was Google that pushed bidding past the FCC's reserve price, officially hooking an "open access requirement" to this …


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  1. Ryan

    So let me get this straight...

    Unlike in the UK, US customers can't just put an arbitrary SIM card (or equivalent) into an arbitrary Windows Mobile device (for example) and run software that uses the TCP/IP stack? (For instance, the highly capable Google Maps Mobile).

    If that's the case, no wonder Google are so keen to open it up. If not, what is the actual situation? It's a little unclear for us on the GMT side of the pond (or at least me).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK has Phorm

    And Google has the states to use as a test bed for the world... Want to trade?

    <shouting at Schmitt> Do no evil today, my ass!

  3. Eric Olson

    @ Ryan

    Over stateside, our wireless networks do work on a locked principle. We have a very well set standard of "buy a 2-year contract, get a phone for almost nothing." After that period, I believe that we could network hop, though since not all the providers use the same system, you are limited. With the vast geographical area, a provider that is awesome in NE might not be so good in the Midwest, and we have enough rural and underpopulated land that it isn't covered by major carriers without roaming, so you have local carriers, or regional ones. Same thing with broadband and other things. We have this "vast expanses" excuse that the providers keep using to justify the high prices for lower service than the rest of the civilized world... and to an extant, it's correct. I just don't think it's quite the premium they place on it.

    But, this C Block is a little different. What it means if you don't have to have a licensed device, or there's an open license, that allows anyone to set up in that spectrum... I don't know if it's set up to require a fee or something to be paid to Verizon, but I think it means that Verizon can't lock anyone out if they are willing to play by the rules... though I don't know who sets those rules. So, this isn't just for cell phones, but anything that goes wireless, which before was TV signals. Though, I would be happy with a wireless signal that could penetrate the concrete bunker that is my apt building, so I can actually have reception.

  4. Andrew Rodland

    Open Access


    There's no such thing as an "arbitrary windows mobile device". If it takes a SIM card (or, just as likely here, contains a non-user-accessible CDMA equivalent), it's been approved by the carriers. Yes, a smartphone will generally let you get down to the level of TCP/IP, but that's not the point. "Open access" means that a customer can attach a device to the network regardless of who built it and whether it was approved, and that the pricing for network access shouldn't be discriminatory based on the type of the device either (meaning that you don't get the $20 "unlimited internet" plan that only applies to phones with 2-inch screens and hardly enough memory to display a webpage, while paying 5 times as much for the same service on a device that connects to a laptop),

  5. Mark Daniels

    @ Andrew Rodland

    Sorry Andrew..... not correct.

    Just becaus it takes a sim card does not mean it is 'approved'. All the [UK] networks have approived and non approved devices. There are some good and bad reasons for this, one good one being that some cheap chinese devices do suffer from radio leaking, ie, skipping around the 900mhz areas and interferring with other devices and infact other frequencies.

    Another [good ?] reason is the provision of service. The reason you are able to put a sim card in a device and have all the correct settings 'sent' to you is that the NOC and the device 'talk' to each other, the imei contain information about the type of device it is. This in turns talks to a Auto' Device Config' tool the NOC buys form the supplier [Ericsson / Nokia / Nortel et al] that is linked to a database of 'approved' devices.

    It is perfectly possible to have a 'chinese knock off' device, some sort of 'nokia me too' clone running on a network, but it is also 110% possible for that same NOC to block that device [and subscriber] by blocking the imei. I have three devices and one of them is , in fact a chinese knock of nokia thing which I bought in Africa.

    In the UK it 'feels' like we have 'open access' but we don't. We just have a massive choice of 'approved' devices that allow users to skip and hop around the NOC with a massive range of devices, which is why you can take an old Nokia [1611 for example, that uses the 'big' sim format ] but a £5.00 per paid sim and make a call and send an sms. Obviously no 2.5G or 3G, but what da ya wan' for a fiver.... ?


  6. leslie

    @Andrew Rodland

    (meaning that you don't get the $20 "unlimited internet" plan that only applies to phones with 2-inch screens and hardly enough memory to display a webpage, while paying 5 times as much for the same service on a device that connects to a laptop)



    Ha! you have been a customer of then.......

    I thought that only went on this side of the water, obv not.

  7. chris

    @ Ryan .....(and)...... AT&T always seems forgotten.

    I am a US mobile user. For years I used Verizon and was bound to only phones that they sell. In the market I'm in there are all the major players, Verizon, US Cellular, Sprint, AT&T, and T-mobile. To be honest I thought the same as you for the longest time. "I'm always bound to the carrier by my phone"................ Then I did my homework about 6 months ago.....................

    I talked to all of the operators. Researched the different cellular technologies and phone manufacturers. I even polled my friends who used the different services.

    In the end I found out that AT&T really did have an open network. They broadcast on all 4 of the GSM bands and are working on getting the HSDPA (3G) band in my area. The only hurdle is configuring the phone on the network.......... That is where you need to buy from a reputable manufacturer. Knock offs won't cut it, your support will be hit or miss. I buy through SE and they provide simple steps to configure my phone. Needless to say, I will be getting the X1, which is a windows mobile device.

    The point is that AT&T, though it's one of the largest carrier here in the states, always seems forgotten. Even in this article...... no mention of AT&T. AT&T did win part of the block in certain markets. Why not mention it??

  8. tony benton

    FCC wireless auction

    If the FCC consider that they have been duped can they not cancel the 'open access' element. They would in Westminster.

  9. Mad Hacker

    The concept of an unlocked phone is almost unknown here

    Try to walk into an ATT or Verizon store and ask to buy an unlocked phone. They will either act like they don't know what you are talking about or tell you that's only a Europe thing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T-Mobile will provide an unlock code after 90 days

    Fair dues to T-Mobile in the US - go to their home page, enter unlock in the search box at the top, and you will be immediately directed to a page that explains that T-Mobile customers can get an unlock code for any device bought from T-Mobile after 90 days of activation.

    The procedure works - I brought my T-Mobile Blackberry to Europe last summer, after unlocking it, and I was able to buy a SIM-only PAYG card for EUR15 at the airport when I arrived, and it worked in my unlocked Blackberry.

    If AT&T offers such a service, it's not easy to find on their website!

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