Virgin Mobile founders, others call for "Open Access"

A few months after a high-profile stand by Skype against the closed nature of the U.S. wireless system, a new group is calling for an "open access" mobile network. The new coalition plans to send a letter to the FCC advocating that it set aside a slice of spectrum for such a network in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction. The plan is similar to the one proposed by Frontline Wireless. The Wireless Founders Coalition for Innovation includes the founders of Virgin Mobile USA, the founder of Zingy, the chairman of Seven Networks, and the CEO of mPortal.

"When you come up with an idea for the Internet, you just put it on the Web, but when you come up with ideas for mobile phones, it's really hard to try them out and get them in front of customers," says Amol Sarva, one of the founders of Virgin Mobile USA.

No handset makers have come forward to join the coalition, even though the WSJ report claims executives from both Nokia and RIM have privately criticized the closed nature of the U.S. wireless market.

It's no surprise that those on the list are leading executives from the MVNO and mobile content arenas, but openly challenging wireless carriers' extensive control over the handsets and services offered for the mobile platform could make future deals with them more difficult.

"If four Sling boxes are put on a cell site, you can take it down," says Tom Tauke, EVP of public affairs and communications at Verizon, which co-owns Verizon Wireless with Vodafone. "There have to be rules for the network."

For more on the new coalition:
- see this article from the WSJ (sub. req.)