updated 01:35 pm EDT, Fri July 20, 2007
ATT and Google back 700MHz
Google is prepared to spend at least $4.6 billion on rights to use the soon to open 700MHz wireless frequency if it means keeping the bandwidth universal, company co-founder Eric Schmidt said in a letter to the FCC today. The search giant's executive said he would be willing to buy at least one part of the spectrum if the FCC's rules for 700MHz service guaranteed that any cellphone, computer, or other device could use the frequency for services such as mobile Internet access without being locked to a particular provider -- a common problem for cellphone frequencies, where carriers are often allowed to limit only their hardware and approved software to work properly. Anyone licensing the 700MHz band would also have to allow sub-licenses and tapping into the service whenever reasonable, Schmidt said.
The move formally endorses FCC head Kevin Martin's recent proposal to open up the wireless range when it becomes available in 2009, and primarily asks Martin to be as explicit as possible in enforcing the open format before the proposal translates to a final decision. Preventing loopholes or other clauses that could allow lock-in was essential to a genuinely universal system, Schmidt argued.
"In short, when Americans can use the software and handsets of their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win," he added.
The FCC and Google have met stiff resistance from some cellphone carriers that seek to protect their dominance of the market, but are also gaining support, say separate reports. While Verizon has recently accused the FCC of 'rigging' the spectrum auction and doing a "huge disservice" to innovation, AT&T today said that it has reversed its earlier policy and now supports the concept of a non-proprietary 700MHz frequency, as it would not affect AT&T's core business but would allow the provider and anyone else to try out new services.
"The plan would enable the introduction of an alternative wireless business model without requiring changes in the business models of AT&T and others in what is a highly competitive wireless industry," said AT&T's senior VP of legal affairs Jim Cicconi. "Based on these understandings, AT&T has no objection to, and would support, the chairman's auction proposal."
AT&T has recently been held as an example in a Congressional debate regarding the dangers of limited rights on given wireless networks, which let it sign a multi-year contract with Apple for exclusive access to the iPhone despite its technical compatibility with rival T-Mobile.