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."