Hey Road Warriors, AT&T's Network is Open (Except, Of Course, the iPhone) - InformationWeek

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12/6/2007
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Hey Road Warriors, AT&T's Network is Open (Except, Of Course, the iPhone)

Coming on the heels of Verizon's plan to open its wireless network, AT&T is making news with its "open" cellphone network. What has changed? Not much. But the fact that the company wants its "openness" to be noticed is good news for small and midsize business travelers.

Coming on the heels of Verizon's plan to open its wireless network, AT&T is making news with its "open" cellphone network. What has changed? Not much. But the fact that the company wants its "openness" to be noticed is good news for small and midsize business travelers.An article in USA Today heralds AT&T's "new" openness: "Starting immediately, AT&T customers can ditch their AT&T phones and use any wireless phone, device and software application from any maker  think smartphones, e-mail and music downloading. And they don't have to sign a contract."

AT&T's wireless business CEO Ralph de la Vega is quoted as saying, "You can use any handset on our network you want. We don't prohibit it, or even police it."

But further down in the article, is this graph: " AT&T for years kept quiet the fact that wireless customers had the option of using devices and applications other than those offered by AT&T. But now salespeople in AT&T phone stores will make sure that consumers "know all their options" before making a final purchase. " Oh, and the iPhone? If you want that, you're still stuck with a two-year contract with AT&T.

As Ryan Block writes on Engadget: "The reality of the situation? Nothing has changed between yesterday and today, and, as de la Vega told us a couple of weeks ago, AT&T customers can continue [to] expect the status quo from the nation's largest carrier in terms of their level of openness and flexibility."

Oh well.

Block continues: "Yes, you can take your AT&T SIM, put it in an unlocked device, and run it on their network without much hassle -- but that doesn't make AT&T any more "open" than the final-say testing facility Verizon intends to use in "openly" making approvals (and disapprovals) of devices and software."

WebProNews furthers the sentiment: "The real openness will come when someone, be it Google or an existing wireless company, implements the open networks and services Google asked for as auction conditions but could not convince the FCC to adopt. Swapping a SIM card isn't the same thing."

But at the start of his blog, Block gets to the heart of the issue: "Who'd have thought the end of 2007 would see US cellphone carrier heavyweights duking it out with PR one-upsmanship to be... open?"

Google has all the wireless carriers running scared with its stated intention to become a wireless service provider and create a truly open environment. But whether the company follows through with its plans to become a wireless service provider or not, the fact that small and midsize business travelers have more freedom now to pick and choose apps and services for their cellphones is a very good thing.

As The USA Today article notes: "Google's siren call for openness has stuck a finger in the eye of the U.S. cellphone industry, which for years has kept consumers on a short leash."

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