AT&T: Open access doesn't apply to iPhone


AT&T: Open access doesn't apply to iPhone

The discussion around open access has reached fever pitch, and it's getting a bit humorous. To wit: AT&T's declaration that it has been open all along, but it just hasn't advertised it. However, there's at least one glaring hole in AT&T's new revelation: Apple's iPhone.

Interestingly, not only has the 700 MHz rules sparked the debate over open access but so has the iPhone and AT&T's restrictions on it. Ever since the iPhone's launch this summer, customers have felt entitled to bucking AT&T's restrictions--such as working on ways to download unapproved applications of the Internet--because they spent the big bucks on the device and feel they have the right to do whatever they want with their devices. Consumer advocates and even Congress made a stink about it.

Last week's USA Today article reveals that AT&T has simply been keeping its open-access policy quiet and that for years wireless customers had the option of using devices and applications other than those offered by the carrier. AT&T said that now salespeople in the carrier's stores will make sure that consumers "know all their options" before subscribing. But don't ask about the openness of the iPhone. As Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless business says: "The iPhone is a very special, innovative case." Should we call AT&T's strategy selective open access?

I suspect we'll see a lot of "selective open access" public relations spin under the guise of open access until an operator such as Verizon or Sprint (WiMAX) creates significant demand for truly open devices and access. The question is, when will that happen? -Lynnette

P.S. Deploying UMTS at 900 MHz is a hot topic in Europe and our sister publication FierceWireless:Europe will be hosting a Webinar on this subject Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. EST. Panelists include Eetu Prieur of the Finnish carrier Elisa, Jake Saunders of ABI Research and Neal Campbell of ISCO International. Click here to register.