Google is seeking to penetrate and open up the walled garden that is the US wireless market. Carriers are the gatekeepers, controlling access and the devices available to consumers. In Europe the situation is quite different, allowing consumers to buy any phone and essentially use them with any operator. Google had made a very public appeal to the FCC to provide more open access to the wireless spectrum to be offered at the upcoming auction.
The company had set a number of conditions that it believes would benefit consumers and lead to more innovation in mobile. Yesterday, the FCC gave Google some — but not all — of what it wanted.
Google had asked for four things from the FCC:
- Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
- Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
- Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
- Open networks: third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at a technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.
Google got two out of those four from the FCC. The company offered qualified praise for the move on its public policy blog. The part that Google did not get was compulsory access to the network on a wholesale basis from the auction winner.
It now remains to be seen whether Google does put up some or all of the the $4.6 billion it said it would potentially bid for the spectrum if its conditions were met.