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August 6, 2007

Open Access network not so open

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:18 AM

Two reports released today questioned the future impact of an "open access" wireless broadband network based on an FCC proposal.

The idea is that a consumer would be allowed to use any device or any application on a network. This revolutionary concept contrasts to how the world works today, where carriers reign supreme and OKs both phones and services a consumer can use.

The spectrum designed to have open access is set to be auctioned off soon, and would be available in 2009 after TV stations vacate the band for HD content.

However, two voices spoke up today, saying that by designating a swath of spectrum for open access alone probably won't work -- that life won't change much for the consumer.

The reality is device manufacturers will unlikely make phones or other consumer electronics specifically for this band without having the support of an operator's sales channel. And no one can take just any device and stick it on any network -- it has to have the proper radios installed, and there's a high price to sticking another radio in a device on the off chance someone might want to use another network.

Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, said this in today's edition of RCRWireless:

"The bottom line is that the mobile device world is actually getting more fragmented and more complicated.... Despite the FCC's new open-access provisions, the tight carrier control over most wireless devices will remain, and devices taking advantage of the open access provisions will either be expensive or risky propositions for the vendor."

Lynette Luna of FierceWireless said:

"The mobile industry is a long way off from being that third pipe the FCC dreams of, and that reality should sink in shortly as open access advocates stop cheering and begin to dig down and try to interpret what the 700 MHz rules really mean in a wireless environment, especially when it comes to 'reasonable network management conditions' and how open access requirements will really be enforced."

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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