Thursday, October 18, 2007

Politcal pressure yields a tiny step toward an open wireless network

Apple has opened the iPhone to third party developers, but a problem remains. The iPhone is restricted to the AT&T network in the US and O2 in Great Britain. Cell phone manufacturers and network operators offer bundles in which the phone price is reduced in return for a long contract and high monthly bills.

This sort of bundling restricts the marketplace and consumer choice, but it is not inevitable. Some nations, for example, Singapore and France, require manufacturers to offer open versions of their phones.

We are starting to see some political reaction to the heavy handed lobbying of the cell companies in the US. In the face of threatened legislation, Verizon and AT&T have loosened some restrictions in their cell phone contracts. That is a small step in the right direction -- toward open, competitive, end-to-end Internet connectivity over wireless networks.

How would the Internet and market be changed if, for example, Dell PCs could only connect to the Internet through one ISP and Hewlett Packard PCs through another ISP?