RCA abandons handset exclusivity fight in favor of 700 MHz interoperability

The Rural Cellular Association said it is no longer asking the FCC to investigate handset exclusivity arrangements between OEMs and Tier 1 carriers. Instead, the RCA said it would focus on the FCC's open proceeding exploring interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band. Handset exclusivity was an issue that got a great deal of attention in 2008 and 2009, but it has since faded in importance--especially after more and more carriers got access to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. In a filing posted Friday with the FCC, the RCA said that while device exclusivity continues to "harm competition and impede the ability of wireless carriers to compete with AT&T and Verizon," the FCC's 700 MHz proceeding opened a window of opportunity. "Importantly, ensuring interoperability also will have a positive impact on the availability of cutting-edge devices that consumers demand and that competitive carriers require to compete effectively with the largest super-carriers, because the absence of interoperability has been a significant impediment (along with exclusivity) in smaller carriers' ability to obtain access to the latest handsets," the RCA wrote. Filing