Get Used To $600 Phones

TV broadcasts are going digital. That's fine. Their  former broadcast spectrum, at 700 MHz, is going to be available for other things. That's great. That spectrum is very useful, as the signal can penetrate walls. That's terrific.The head of the FCC, Kevin Martin, thinks that the spectrum should be turned over at auction to wireless broadband services, but only if the services are offered to the consumer using any device.  That's ... hey, that might get expensive.

The proposed rules would apply only to the spectrum being auctioned, not the rest of the wireless business, which still makes most of its revenue from voice calls. But Martin's proposal, if adopted by the FCC, could reverberate through a U.S. wireless industry that has tightly controlled access to devices and services. The Apple iPhone is a prime example: Like most devices sold in the USA, the iPhone is, in industry parlance, "locked." It allows only features and applications that Apple and AT&T  provide and works only with an AT&T contract.

The FCC chairman said he has grown increasingly concerned that the current practices "hamper innovations" dreamed up by outside developers. One example: Mobile devices that also can use Wi-Fi, such as a home network or airport "hot spot," for Internet access. "Internationally, Wi-Fi handsets have been available for some time," Martin noted. "But they are just beginning to roll out here."

Don't start jumping for joy just yet. Your smartphone is probably priced like your printer is. Charge very little for the equipment, make money selling ink. If the cost of the phone wasn't subsidized by the calling plan bundled with it, you'd have to pay full price for the phone.  So maybe we should lighten up on Apple fanbois over their $600 phones. We all might be talking on $600 phones fairly soon.
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