Thursday, August 23, 2007

Torn Two Ways

USAToday have an interesting piece on the handset/carrier mess in the US which is keeping them back in the dark ages of mobile (iPhone not withstanding). It's inteeresting to me mainly because it nails all the major problems with the way carriers sell devices there (handset locking, feature crippling holding back content use, contracts prohibiting 3rd party app use, etc). These echo the problems faced everywhere else in the world but taken to the next level, enforced more strongly so as to put an even greater stranglehold on the content markets and lead to the bland handset lineup US users 'enjoy'.

The most defensible of these annoyances are early-exit fees from a contract - the handset was subsidised by the monthly fee, so it is quite reasonable to expect the consumer to have to pay off that subsidy before the contract can terminate, whether it be a one-off fee or a monthly charge; the others are just the result of operator stupidity and paranoid lawyers, as I have yet to see an actual real justification for preventing a user from using the software their handset was designed to run (which is legal and frequently done in many parts of the world).

However true all this carrier-bashing is though, it doesn't remove the naivety of consumer advocate Josh Silver's statement that "public policies in this country allow (Apple) to chain that technology to one massive company, AT&T, rather than allow consumers to make the choices they want". Public policy no doubt plays its part but one of the key barriers to portability - even if the operators were under European-style regulations to allow it - would be the mishmash of technologies used across the US.

I would love to see how Josh intends to take his GSM iPhone on AT&T and make it run on Verizon or Sprint's CDMA networks, let alone the legacy iDEN networks that Sprint acquired with Nextel. This portability we enjoy in Europe can only be achieved when a single wireless technology is mandated across a country at the start - it is the policies of the government 10 years ago that were at fault and the US government today could only hope to partially solve the problem, allowing portability across equivalent technologies.

3 Comments:

Blogger Moose6912 said...

Phone locking is just so wrong. In my country, Singapore, when the telcos wanted to implement phone locking, the government agency in charge stepped in and told them "No way". That is why we do not have phone locking here. I would expect Sprint, AT&T etc to do the intelligent thing and sell unlocked phones at a higher price so that consumers can choose if they want a cheap locked phone or a more expensive unlocked phone.

9:36 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha iDEN hahaha.

[Shoots self]

5:57 pm

 
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