Wireless coalition lobbies for open access
A coalition of industry players, including the founders of Virgin Mobile USA, have petitioned the US regulator to open up a swathe of spectrum to give consumers more choice of wireless services.
The Wireless Founders Coalition for Innovation sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), calling for open access rules to a single swathe of spectrum in the upcoming 700MHz auction.
The move would allow companies seeking to launch new services to bypass the existing major carriers. The group told FCC chairman Kevin Martin that the 700MHz auction provides an opportunity allowing the openness of the wireline internet to be applied to the wireless world, thereby unlocking a new wave of wireless entrepreneurial activity.
“One does not have to ask Comcast or Time Warner Cable or even Verizon’s DSL division for permission to launch a new product, service or device,” the letter said. “To borrow the Nike slogan, you can ‘just do it. In wireless, on the other hand, you can ‘just ask the Big 4.’”
The coalition is backing Frontline Wireless’s proposed requirements for Open Access for a single block of 700 MHz spectrum. Frontline’s own plan is to build a nationwide public safety network in the 700MHz band. The company believes that adopting wholesale, open access use for a portion of this spectrum will benefit competition in the wireless and broadband markets, providing consumers with more choices and first responders with better alternatives for wireless broadband.
The coalition members consist of John Tantum and Amol Sarva, who co-founded Virgin Mobile USA; Fabrice Grinda, founder of content firm Zingy; Jason Devitt, founder of Vindigo; Pat McVeigh, former CEO of Omnisky and PalmSource; Sam Leinhardt, founder of mobile broadcaster Penthera; Martin Frid-Nielsen, founder of remote access developer Soonr; and Alex Asseily, who founded Aliph, which created audio technology for wireless phones.
The move follows a similar play by Skype, which in February, petitioned the FCC to apply an American legal precedent, known as the Carterfone decision, to wireless networks. It is suggested that if the firm is successful, the networks would be opened up, making it much easier to use Skype-like services over them.
Carterfone dates back to 1968 when federal regulators issued a landmark ruling that allowed Americans to own the telephones in their homes. In effect, it allows customers to attach any device to the phone network, provided it does not damage it. It is Skype’s contention that the law should be extended to allow its application to run on any device capable of accessing the network.
However, Carterfone, to date, has only applied to the wired phone network and cable TV networks. Skype wants regulation that would broaden Carterfone’s reach so that operators would allow any application on any attachable device to be used on their networks.