AT&T has announced that as of today it would start allowing any phone, device, or software from any maker on its network. That is right, as of today the third major wireless carrier in the US has opened their network to allow customers to use what they want on their networks.
For years the wireless network carriers that provide your cell phone service have had a restrictive hold on what devices could be used with their services. Today marks the final major player to reverse that practice and customers in the US win. But what about Canada?
It seems that wireless providers in the Great White North are less inclined to provide the same openness to their customers. The big three here â€“ Bell, Telus, and Rogers â€“ still require that customers use only the devices and software that they provide. Even when you consider that two of them use the same technology (CDMA), they do not easily allow, if at all, the ability to take your phone from one carrier to the other. Instead, you are required to sign a new contract for a subsidized phone in order to switch companies. So the question remains when will Canadian companies follow the American lead. Not only do they seem disinterested but the Canadian Governmentâ€™s department of Industry also lacks any definitive position on the topic. In fact, the Minster of Industry lacked any requirement of an open network policy for bids in the upcoming Canadian wireless spectrum auction. A requirement that is part of the same auction that is ongoing in the US.
For a government that seems so determined that align its self with the American draconian DMCA it has missed the boat on a pro-consumer move of open wireless networks. Which is also a policy of the Americans. So who looses should we not adopt this policy â€“ either though industry or government regulation â€“ why we the customers do!
An open network policy would allow consumers the choice to use any device, phone, or software on their wireless provider. Therefore, instead of being tied into contracts and restrictive choices of phones you would be able to take any technological compatible piece of equipment to any provider. The caveat to this is you may have to pay full price for the phone to avoid the contract requirement since the carrierâ€™s subsidize the phones through those contracts.
The Canadian wireless providers face three issues and mounting public pressure to fix them.
1) Open networks â€“ allow the customers the choice to use any device, phone, or software they wish with their connection.
2) Service plans/pricing â€“ currently there is no reasonable data plans for mobile devices and most plans have minutes, bandwidth transfer, or content restrictions. Unlimited â€“ if even available – plans are priced well out of the affordability of the average Canadian.
3) Competition â€“ With only two major CDMA and one GSM carrier there is little to no choice for service. Increased competition is necessary.
As for the iPhone, the AT&T move will have no effect. Customers will still need to sign a two year contract to get their iPhone. That said, in two years I predict a surge of iPhone users fleeing AT&T for other carriers.