Chalk one up for Sprint Nextel, which isn't waiting for its WiMAX network to roll out to begin experimenting with the whole concept of open access. Amazon is distributing a new eBook device, called the Kindle, that makes use of Sprint's nationwide EV-DO network to enable wireless shopping and over-the-air content downloading. (See story No. 1)
While the device and pricing concept of the Kindle is getting mixed reviews, this looks to be an important step for a U.S. industry that faces a regulatory and market environment that is forcing them down the open access path. The Kindle is the start of Sprint's whole concept around its WiMAX business--that a network can be accessed from several different types of consumer electronic devices that aren't subsidized or sold by the wireless operator.
I'm not sure the device will be wildly successful for a myriad of reasons, but it's a good start for open access and a test in finding non-traditional ways to make money in this new environment. We're already seeing innovative services based on open access come to fruition. 3 Mobile and Skype have collaborated on a customized VoIP phone. 2008 should be an interesting year for open access experiments. It's likely we'll see more operators than Sprint in the U.S. begin dipping their toes in the open access waters.--Lynnette