back to article US wireless pioneer to carriers: Don't be European

John Stanton - co-founder of US wireless pioneer McCaw Cellular and a three time head of the national wireless association - has urged the big-name carriers to restore their vice-grip on the American airwaves. After the CEOs of T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon Wireless spent the morning discussing their gradual transition …


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  1. Jesse Dorland
    Paris Hilton

    He is an idiot

    As someone who has lived in Europe. I'd say European mobile carriers got the right idea, but of course there is a room for improvement. Our side of Atlantic mobile carriers are still trying to figure out why pajama can not become an underwear.

    Paris because she wouldn't try to reinvent the wheels.

  2. Mike Street

    Provide a Service?

    "That, in effect, defaults us back to the notion that we're access providers" or maybe it defaults you back to providing a service for your customers. A radical idea to him, it seems.

    Apparently, he knows nothing of other carriers, except DoCoMo who are a special case. Euro carriers have tried to own content - 3 with Premier League soccer springs to mind. It didn't work out well for them. And they are all doing it again with soccer in the UK at the moment but I don't hear them crowing about the results.

    The reason is partly that content is a peripheral business for operators - voice and text make most of the money, so get all of the investment. Just look at the TV adverts. Best to leave content to experts for whom it is their major or only business and pick up all the mobile data revenues for no upfront risk.

  3. Chris Beach

    Google has content?

    what the hell is this guy on about?

    google doesn't have much content at all, it just makes more of our content available, in a much easier and simpler manner than any telco could.

    If he had properly looked at the euro carriers he would see, every single 'walled garden' approach has failed spectacularly. 3 being the perfect example, if they had launched with open mobile broadband, instead of their 3 pages of content and some pixilated footy clips, they might have done better, as they didn't they are now struggling to compete with mvno's.

    utter moron

  4. Eric Van Haesendonck
    Thumb Down

    He's wrong

    Look at the situation with the iPhone: it was only available on one carrier, and customers pretty much revolted and unlocked their iPhones.

    Problem is that providing a great experience isn't the same thing for everybody: for some people it is having an iPhone, for dome it is having a Treo, for some it is connecting their EEE PC with 3G, for some it's android, for some it's blackberry etc... and it is the same thing for online services.

    If carriers want to control what devices get on their networks they either need to support pretty much any device (at which point they lose control anyway) or face user discontent, leading to high churn rates, early terminations, then government intervention because of the early termination fees etc... How many people left their carriers just because they couldn't use an iPhone on their current networks?

  5. yeah, right.
    Gates Horns

    He's right, but he's evil.

    He's right in that carriers make more money if they own everything, and can therefore dictate terms to customers. It's called lockin, and Microsoft does that very well in the computer field.

    However, from a consumer perspective, what he's proposing is downright evil. Just look at what's happened in Canada, a country with some of the highest wireless rates of any country in the world. If corporations are allowed to follow this person's model, consumers will get repeatedly raped.

  6. Aitor

    Yep, he certainly is an idiot

    They can't really own content.. they can just be a mere access platform, and serve tv, internet, etc.. a walled garden is of no use today... so, what are they going to offer? they want to best internet? X)

  7. david g
    Thumb Down


    It's idiots like this that gave us tri-band mobiles.

  8. aL
    Thumb Down

    he's product of his stockholders

    and pretty short sideed at that..

    he's basicaly saying that you can screw the custumers out of more money if you lock them into your network/service/software. and thats perfectly true.

    microsoft has done it in the past

    apple is doing it now

    it works.. it sucks for consumers, but it brings in the moola

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Own content?

    By all means, be my guest and buy up all the content you desire.

    Make yourself unpopular I dare you :)

    Flame, well, obvious.

  10. Piloti
    Jobs Horns

    The difference between 'us' and 'them'.....

    ... but only an idiot from a British or European point of view. Americans do indeed think that the provider should also be owner. Look at the furore and verve around the pile of shit Apple calls a mobile phone; they restrict what you can put on it, they will actively remove what they don't like, and if, in the interests of the subscriber saving a few pound when they travel, they unlatch the device, Apple deem this to be breach of Apples T/C's and will try to disable the device.

    As it seems, Americans are quite happy with this. Only a minority of people have bought the Apple thing. Nokia is bar far the market leader. Nokia's are devices which allow the user to add pretty much anything they want to their device, thanks to the S60 OS.

    So, for an American to advocate American companies owning content as well as the devices that are used to access the content as well as the airwaves for carrying that stuff is not so bizarre, for Americans.

    Being English we will tut and grumble and not much else, but the French being will take a much liberated approach. And as oft reported, the Scandics don't like being told what to do by fruity upstarts, cocky little shits who think that because they sell an no better than average much player that some how gives them the right to do what they want in the wireless world.

    No siree.......

  11. Stephen Hobdell
    Dead Vulture

    Hit the point, but from the wrong angle

    He's saying they're in dange of becoming a commodity - well, here's news: they already are. Get with the program(me) and accept your fate, carriers!

    If you want to innovate with content, do it on top of the commodity infrastructure.

    If you want to create new infrastructure then be prepared for a bumpy & risky ride.

    Dead vulture because there wasn't a dead carrier (pidgeon).

  12. Darren B

    I suppose

    It's one way to keep Motorola going

  13. Phil Miesle
    Dead Vulture

    market penetration?

    Uh, Ireland and the UK are "over 100% market penetration" for mobile phones. How, exactly, that happens I don't quite know but suffice it to say that pretty much every teenager upwards has a mobile phone.

    Could it (just could it) be that the US has not reached this saturation point and is simply working its way there with double-digit growth? Or that US mobile phone networks were basically under-developed until GSM carriers entered the market?

    And this guy was a *successful* businessman?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    It's consistent...

    with US policy. Talk about capitalism, competition etc. Then do your best to stop it. Control the content, don't allow a market for it. If you control the content, people have to use your network if they want it. Of course, much of the media belongs to US companies (aside the vast output of Asia - Bollywood etc.).

    The European model works and competition is working (aside from roaming, where all the providers have the same loathing). The barrier to entry in this market is high enough, regulators should be involved if the market is more constrained.

    Next he'll be promoting the idea that we should be paying to receive calls and texts !

  15. Stephen Usher


    Actually, he's not an idiot, from a certain point of view....

    Basically, if you're looking from the point of view of grabbing as much money as possible and milking the cattle^H^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers for as much money as possible, which is the American capitalist way after all, then he's dead on the money (in more ways than one).

    If, on the other hand you're looking from the societal and customer viewpoint then he's being evil and selfish.

    Truth is a three edged sword.

  16. Joe
    Thumb Down

    John Stanton is clearly deluded

    "You see, he doesn't buy the idea that wireless carriers are access providers."

    That sums up his delusion problem quite precisely. He calls for innovation, but his idea of innovation is to put his customers into jail, and control everything they see and hear on *his* wireless network.

    A Big 'Thumbs Down' to John Stanton, you have obviously been sucked too deep into the corporate mindset, and forgot what you're supposed to be really doing.

  17. John Robson Silver badge


    Stick with growing with the economy, although I can understand that that might not seem attractive at the moment.

    Although if we're in a recession (-ve growth) and the carriers grow with the economy, how are they managing 3% +ve growth?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "own the content" ?

    The European operators he considers successful generally don't "own the content" but these successful cellcos have based their business model on universal coverage and not charging a fortune for incoming calls (except when roaming), whereas the same is clearly not true in the US. Someone is confused.

    Next this genius will be telling us that that the future is bright, the future is "owning the content" which means mobile IPtv content rights and delivery mechanisms, and other such epic-fail rubbish.

    Have a mobile weekend.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Apples to oranges

    "If you become a pure access technology, in a saturated environment, you’re ceding yourself to growing at the rate of the economy." -- well, if you want to compare today to nine years (which you do) ago maybe a big factor is not that you were not an access technology, but rather that the market wasn't yet saturated, eh?

  20. Edwin
    Jobs Horns

    not an idiot

    ...just stuck in the past.

    The point is simple:

    Most consumers (especially high ARPU customers) will prefer an open network to a closed one. The simple reason is that there are other businesses that provide the hardware and software and services better than the telcos can.

    There's an interesting parallel to the iPhone here (also very, very closed) - I wonder what Stanton's view there is? I don't think the iPhone can be viable as a closed product for very long...

  21. dave lawless

    I'm not an industry leader but ....

    There is a seminal paper on the subject :

    The lessons within have served me well, you won't catch me without me trousers.

  22. DiskJunky
    IT Angle


    am I understanding that right in thinking that he seems to be saying go back to the days of the "internet portals" where "everything" we need is determined by that first page that we see - and space on those pages paid for by companies who which to "be seen". No thanks, I'll stick with searching via google. Which is an american company last time I looked...

  23. Andy Bell


    He's saying that we need to go back to the AOL, Compuserve and (pre internet) MSN days where you saw that they gave you and were lucky to get hobbled access to everything else.

    Because that worked out just fine for all those folks didn't it ?


    We need a muppet picture.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    He's stuck in the past. A very short-term view that eventually leads to extinction. Business acumen? Fail.

  25. pctechxp

    DoCoMo and I-mode

    I-mode is most successful in Japan but lets face it they go mad for any gizmo over there.

    O2 tried it and it flopped.

    Also, restricting networks to CDMA or other technologies that are little used outside the US and Canada will mean they miss all that roaming revenue.

  26. Frumious Bandersnatch

    seems to be advocating

    a return to the BBS system of content provision. Or Ceefax, Minitel, et. al. He was right to draw comparison with DoCoMo in order to bolster his position, but American customers are not the same beasts as Japanese customers. Anyway, a more telling comparison would be with the de-regulated telecoms environments in the Scandinavian countries. These countries didn't get to be powerhouses in the telecoms sector by building walled gardens, but by letting the networks flourish. Yes, it's led to "commodification", but Mr. Stanton is playing Canute if he thinks he can stem that particular tide.

  27. James

    Deja vu all over again

    Back in the early days of the Net, all the big players seemed determined to ram their precious "content" down our throats, often by keeping us confined to "walled gardens" where we had little choice: AOL's the most obvious example, but Compuserve/CIM, Prodigy, MSN - they were all plugging the same agenda, and all failed, eventually evolving into ISPs.

    Then the mobile companies tried to pull the same thing here, with their beloved pay-per-byte WAP, with visions of us checking our train times, news and sports scores on our phones - with every click making them a little bit richer, of course. We all know how that turned out for them.

    No doubt their US counterparts would like to do the same, although I think that boat has already sailed: certainly I saw AT&T promoting their Internet access more heavily than the UK companies have, not to mention the iPhone, which is very definitely built for accessing the Internet via AT&T, not for accessing AT&T content.

  28. Robert Hill

    He's not wrong...

    in that he believes that mobile operators have to do a better job integrating services that are "relevant for customers", in the way that DoCoMo did in Japan. Truly, most mobile experiences today are incredibly voice-centric, because mobile devices stem in large part from mobile phones. However, take that root out of the equation, and consider what customers want as a "mobile device", not a mobile phone, and there exists a large whitespace for mobile operators to innovate, and exceed the growth of the economy.

    Apple isn't selling millions of dollars of iPhone apps via AppStore because people want mobile voice...they are selling all of that software because people want a mobile DEVICE. And that is one thing that that iPhone really does bring to the market, and to a lesser degree Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices. (I say lesser extent because AppStore is brilliantly integrated to the mobile experience, whereas going to Handango or similar to buy Win Mobile apps just is a throwback only a geek can love).

    So Stanton isn't wrong, as long as the emphasis is not to promote a walled-garden, but encourage user tie-in via innovation and new services and content...

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