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Wireless Networking Communications Hardware

Skype Asks FCC to Open Cellular Networks 292

Posted by samzenpus
from the level-the-field dept.
Milwaukee's_Best writes "Skype has just asked the FCC to force wireless phone companies to open their networks to all comers. Skype essentially wants to turn the wireless phone companies into just another network of the kind currently operated on the ground. This would require carriers to allow any phone to be used on their networks, and for any application. Users would simply purchase a voice or data plan (though these could easily converge into a data plan if VoIP calling is used) and then use the device of their choice to access the network of their choice. Think of it as network neutrality for cell networks. Given the competition that exists within the industry, is this needed?"
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Skype Asks FCC to Open Cellular Networks

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  • by wasabii (693236) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:00PM (#18104962)
    This is nothing but Skype trying to get the government to regulate a market for itself. If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so. As it is now, they own the equipment because they paid to build it. They are free to do whatever they feel they can to capitalize on their investments. So as a humble user who wants to chat on IRC over a wireless carrier.... who am I to MANDATE to these sovereign owners any sorts of conditions?

    Bah to this proposal!
    • If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so.

      And if Ford saw business benefit to requiring Ford Gasoline in their engines, they would want to do so as well. Or if they wanted to create the Ford Expressway, allowing only Fords to be driven upon it.

      Skype is arguing that we'll have a better wireless system if we have an wholly integrated wireless system -- that the spectrum, as a common good, should be shared in an open manner.

      This isn't exactly rocket science or "New Deal" style expansion of government power. It's a request for a federal agency to take a look at the market, and do what it is legislatively required to do.

      (And you don't get a vote on this. The entire reason for the FCC is to insulate the descision about the airwaves from politics.)
      • by qbwiz (87077) *
        And if Ford saw business benefit to requiring Ford Gasoline in their engines, they would want to do so as well. Or if they wanted to create the Ford Expressway, allowing only Fords to be driven upon it.

        It's seems unlikely that anyone would want to buy Ford cars, if they did that.
        • by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:44PM (#18105240) Homepage Journal

          And if Ford saw business benefit to requiring Ford Gasoline in their engines, they would want to do so as well. Or if they wanted to create the Ford Expressway, allowing only Fords to be driven upon it.

          It's seems unlikely that anyone would want to buy Ford cars, if they did that.

          It does seem unusual, doesn't it, that consumers would continue to choose a product when it continually locks them in tighter and tighter to the MotherCorp? It is, alas, not at all unlikely. Standard Oil, Microsoft and AT&T are all textbook cases wherein people continue(d) buying a product that ultimately cost them more than the alternative.

          The market is not free, practically speaking. There is a constant need to outside forces to provide a tempering influence on some of its worst excesses. Government is not a good candidate for this role, but it's the best available candidate, I'm afraid to say.

          • by Slithe (894946)
            The question I have is if government intervention causes more harm than good. I know that abuses certainly happen, but I wonder if fewer abuses would take place without government intervention.
        • by plover (150551) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:33AM (#18105500) Homepage Journal
          Oh, I think they'd sell a lot of Fords. You just have to imagine the big picture of a Libertarian private roadway scenario.

          Ford Expressways, GM Streets and Chrysler Highways are usually four lanes wide, nicely maintained and have a practical speed limit of 80 MPH, and cost $100 per month. Daewoo Roadways are constantly mocked by late-night TV comedians for being slow and narrow, and they almost never go exactly where you want them to, but they only cost $20 per month to use. Just for the elite, let's say Lamborghini has a small system of double-lane highly elevated roadways that let their drivers reach speeds of over 200 MPH, but cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 per month. For the many places they don't serve, they have an arrangement with the big three to let their drivers use their roads.

          Finally, there are public access streets that are little more than overcrowded, rutted, muddy, pot-holed goat trails, but they're free. Because the motoring public shuns them, they never get enough funding to fix them up, and so they remain the last roadways available to the poor.

          You'd most likely buy a Ford (or GM or Chrysler) because that's what the vast majority of ordinary people use, and the roads are both cost effective and superior to the cheaper alternatives. You'd probably pick a car manufacturer based on whose roads carried you closest to your home and work, and what kind of discounts the dealer was willing to throw in. (And Eric Raymond would be out there encouraging people to buy and drive road graders in their spare time, but now I've carried the analogy too far.)

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by robbiedo (553308)
            Ayn Rand would just love you to pieces!
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by 0123456789 (467085)
            Finally, there are public access streets that are little more than overcrowded, rutted, muddy, pot-holed goat trails, but they're free.

            You've driven in New Jersey, then?

      • It's sort of a shame you used a car analogy because this being slashdot, everyone got on board with that. The really insightful part of your post, and the one that should be discussed is this:

        the spectrum, as a common good, should be shared in an open manner.
        That's the refutation to the argument that cell companies shouldn't play because they built the infrastructure. The deal is, they built the infrastructure on a property we all own. It reminds me of something I once heard Utah Phillips complain about (paraphrasing here): the federal government leases our assets to companies who then turn around and sell back to us the stuff we already own at a profit to themselves. He said it much better and more humurously.
        • by icebike (68054)
          >the federal government leases our assets to companies who then turn around and sell back to us the
          > stuff we already own at a profit to themselves.

          So what would YOU be able to do with the bandwidth or YOUR minuscule share there of?

          Your argument, like Utah's is patently silly. Cell companies Leases the airwaves, investors put billions into towers and infrastructure and networks and storefronts, an you imply ALL OF THAT should be done for FREE because we already "OWN" the airwaves?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by *weasel (174362)
            Of course it shouldn't be free.

            But we shouldn't allow them to lock us into particular handsets - just because they don't want competition in that market. And we shouldn't allow them to block non-harmful forms of traffic they already support (data) for no reason other than they don't want competition from that market (VoIP).
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vic-traill (1038742)

        Bah - here come the arguments by analogy. Yegads!

        But first, on topic stuff:

        TFA notes that Skype's motivation is clear - to boldly place their traffic where its traffic has not gone before. Not argument here from me.

        My understanding of regulation in the land-line telecommunications world is that it was driven by the desire to enable service additions and competition in a business where there were - and maybe still are - significant barriers to entry. It's expensive to get into the telecommunications bu

    • So as a humble user who wants to chat on IRC over a wireless carrier.... who am I to MANDATE to these sovereign owners any sorts of conditions?

      I'm with you, but proponents of this would argue that the FCC basically gave monopoly of a public resource (spectrum) to these companies for a finite amount of time, and in exchange, the companies would build a network to use that spectrum. After a period, allowing the companies to reoup their investment, the network would become open.

      I don't think their respec
    • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:14PM (#18105056)
      The real question here is whether it is in the public interest to have a heavily fragmented market of incompatible cellular networking.

      Yes, it is their equipment, but it would be illegal to use it on public airspace. Is it in our best interest to allow companies to sell back what was once a public commons?
    • by Mr2001 (90979) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:15PM (#18105058) Homepage Journal

      If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so.
      Obviously. The whole point of regulation, however, is that if the only thing guiding your actions is "business benefit", it'll often lead you to trash the commons or screw people over some other way. For example, if dirty factories could save money by polluting less, we wouldn't need environmental regulations - but in fact polluting less tends to cost more, so we impose regulations to give them an incentive to do it.
      • For example, if dirty factories could save money by polluting less, we wouldn't need environmental regulations - but in fact polluting less tends to cost more, so we impose regulations to give them an incentive to do it.

        No, polluting less really does actually cost less... in the long run. If it didn't, even environmentalists wouldn't complain about pollution (remember, destroying the environment is a cost!). The problem is that the costs of polluting are external to the company, so it doesn't see the saving

    • Libertarians (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181)

      As a free market libertarian, I vote against this.

      I lost all respect for Libertarians after I heard one complain about how his town wouldn't plow his private drive.

      Unfortunately, we tried the "libertarian" take early on in the US; business used to be largely unregulated. What did they do with this freedom? Grossly abused the workforce- preferring to employ children and women, who had little socio-political power and thus were easy to control and work to death. Polluted the hell out of groundwater an

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dlugar (124619)

        Maybe if you grew up in a state like Massachusetts where children died getting crushed by weaving machines in fabric mills, and where PCBs were dumped by GE into rivers simply because they COULD...well, maybe just then you'd feel a little differently about regulating industry. Hell, they recently found near the Alewife T station, on the cite of an old dye plant, that people who grew up in the area had cancer rates that were astronomically high. These people, as kids, played on the site- and many of them rem

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          There are different shades of libertarians just as there are with many things in life. Many libertarians are not complete anarchists, however; they see the role of government as being important for market failures, such as pollution. Charging a pollution tax on the marginal cost of pollution would, in my opinion, completely compatible with a libertarian outlook.

          As a "different shade of libertarian myself," I agree completely. The key is to not think of it as "evil government regulation," but instead as "ac

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dk.r*nger (460754)

            The key is to not think of it as "evil government regulation," but instead as "accounting for externalized costs so that the free market has accurate information."

            Or, as a more general statement: To think of government regulation as the last measure, not the first.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by eht (8912)
        Well thank goodness you keep electing a drunk murderer to senate to make all your problems go away.

        woo karma
        • Well...not murder. Let's be fair to him. It was manslaughter. And very probably obstruction of justice after the fact. But not murder.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          I dunno, Massachusetts seems to be doing pretty well. Despite people like you calling a car collision without saving the passenger "murder". But then, you voted to send the serial/mass murderer cokehead corporate theocrat to the White House twice, and look at how many problems that's created for Ted Kennedy to make go away.
        • by anagama (611277)
          Bush was a senator? And I thought he was a coke-head, not a drunk. The things you learn on /. Amazing.
          • You've got the "best" of both worlds.

            Don't you remember the clip from back around 2000 that showed Bush obviously drunk at a party in the 90s, a decade after he claimed to have gone dry? Or the DUI he had?

            The evidence for Bush the alcoholic is more solid than for Bush the coke head.
    • Obviously not someone comprehends the utility of opening access to a switched network built upon a ubiquitous public resource.
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Obviously not someone comprehends the utility of opening access to a switched network built upon a ubiquitous public resource.

        What resource is that? Sure, the airwaves are "owned" by all of society ... but last I heard it was the carriers who built out the equipment necessary to broadcast phone calls over them.

        • by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:01AM (#18105340)
          True, but they couldn't have made a useful network without the government's assistance. If everyone was able to their own radio devices and broadcast one whatever frequencies they wanted then the airwaves would be a useless mess. The government has put regulations in place in order for radio to be a usable medium and exchange people and companies who are given license to broadcast on part of the spectrum have to play by the governments rules. It's a fair trade I'd say.
    • by mpesce (146930) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:37PM (#18105206) Homepage
      Please do not confuse a free market with an anti-market. Something that is as highly controlled (rightly or wrongly) as the radio spectrum doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of being a free market. This is, in fact, nearly the textbook definition of an anti-market, where economic entities collude with governments to retain market control.

      If you want real free markets, then you don't regulate at all. No spectrum allocations, no power regulations, nothing. Of course, that's chaos. So what do we do? We use governmental institutions to balance the needs of all stakeholders. And Skype is quite definitely a stakeholder in this area.

      Everyone, everywhere, needs more competition; that's not just a good idea, it's a Natural Law. Eventually, the telcos will learn this.
      • Furthermore, "free markets" are truly free only when there is competition. Free markets and deregulated markets are two different things. As a matter of fact, deregulated markets tend, over time, to create a monopoly or an oligopoly which can keep the market captive by having pricing power. Hence, to keep the market free, you have to regulate it to prevent one or few firms to gain market power. Ideally, the regulation should just level the playing field, not favor one player over another. This is micro-econ
      • by asuffield (111848)

        If you want real free markets, then you don't regulate at all. No spectrum allocations, no power regulations, nothing. Of course, that's chaos. So what do we do?

        We create protocols that work anyway. All of the 802.11{a,b,g,whatever's next} wireless protocols are running on unregulated frequency bands (they get put through testing by the FCC and other national agencies, but these are just the regular emissions tests - there are *no* tests for the correctness of the protocol implementation).

        The claim that an

    • If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so.

      A licensed oligopoly will be resistant to change.

      who am I to MANDATE to these sovereign owners any sorts of conditions

      Do they have sovereign rights over the public airwaves? I often wonder why people who claim 'free market' sentiments most often just seem to support the status quo. In reality they should be biding for the right to use the public airwaves in an open market every couple of years, just to maintain the best price for that limited resource. A true 'free market' would do that. While that would lead to the best valuation, and would allow new companies to star

    • If you're in favor of a free market, maybe we should open up the radio spectrum for anyone to broadcast whatever they want, and maybe we should let everyone put data networks wherever they want whenever they want however they want.

      Of course, when your street has been dug up for the 5th time to lay down cable, or cable hasn't been laid at all because the investment isn't worth the risk without some guarantee of a semi-monopoly, and when your local police departments, ambulances, and TV stations can't get a

    • "Free market libertarian" wants to let the AT&T/Verizon(/Qwest) cartel sell themselves access at puny wholesale rates, but competitors should pay prohibitively inflated retail? Similarly huge-scale competitors like the other 2 of the 3 can equalize roaming charges, but small competitors will never afford to get access?

      Libertarians are people who believe in the minimum government possible, but no less. Free marketeers are people who believe that markets work best with the fewest barriers to competition.
    • by tsa (15680) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:45AM (#18105570) Homepage
      If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so.

      This is exactly why America has, IMO, the most retarded mobile communications systems in the world. From the article:

      Skype essentially wants to turn the wireless phone companies into just another network of the kind currently operated on the ground. This would require carriers to allow any phone to be used on their networks, and for any application. Users would simply purchase a voice or data plan (though these could easily converge into a data plan if VoIP calling is used) and then use the device of their choice to access the network of their choice. Verizon, Cingular, et al. hate this and would love to keep crippling WiFi and Bluetooth access on their phones in order to keep traffic flowing through their network, using their (high-priced) services.

      Here in Europe there are organizations that keep the playing field level, by forcing mobile service providers to do just what Skype asks. Here it doesn't really matter which provider you chose; the're all good because they all have to compete in the same playing field. Why should it matter for a provider what 'type' of data is sent over their network, and by what device this data is sent? Data is data, and the more bits they transport the more money they get. Apparently in America this isn't so. Amazing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Here in Europe there are organizations that keep the playing field level, by forcing mobile service providers to do just what Skype asks. Here it doesn't really matter which provider you chose; the're all good because they all have to compete in the same playing field. Why should it matter for a provider what 'type' of data is sent over their network, and by what device this data is sent? Data is data, and the more bits they transport the more money they get. Apparently in America this isn't so. Amazing.

        And
    • This is nothing but Skype trying to get the government to regulate a market for itself. If the cell provides saw business benefit in opening their network, they would do so. As it is now, they own the equipment because they paid to build it.

      I think this proposal has a snowball's chance in Hell. If we can't even get the FCC to outlaw hardware locking of phones, what chance would Skype think they have of getting the entire network opened up?

      What we're seeing here is Skype realizing they aren't going to be the

    • This is nothing but Skype trying to get the government to regulate a market for itself. ... who am I to MANDATE to these sovereign owners any sorts of conditions?

      This is a reasonable position, except for one thing: libertarianism and the whole concept of sovereignty is antithetical to the very premise of the discussion! Once you start talking about highly regulated businesses such a cell network providers, it's already assumed that such positions are rejected.

      If you or I were allowed to open and operat

  • go go go (Score:3, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:02PM (#18104970) Homepage
    Skype essentially wants to turn the wireless phone companies into just another network of the kind currently operated on the ground.

    Yes, and the kind currently operated on the ground are facing a dead-end business model.
  • by elronxenu (117773) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:05PM (#18104992) Homepage
    Sounds like a great idea.

    Skype should go first, by documenting their protocols and allowing 3rd party clients to connect to the Skype network.

    • by wallior (617195) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:13PM (#18105044) Homepage
      Completely agree. This request is disgustingly hypocritical. In Australia and UK (I think UK) Hutchison (3) will eventually used Skype for data calls across their network. You can bet that Skype won't be pushing for openness on these networks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by danamln (871842)
      the fcc should apply the same standard opening both networks and then maybe we can manufacture phones that recognize each other instead of needing a network at all. I can't wait for the day when my cell phone play six degrees of seperation to find the person I'm calling before acsessing any network.
    • by xigxag (167441)
      Skype hasn't been awarded exclusive control over a portion of public spectrum. Ergo, no comparison. What you're calling the "Skype network" is in fact the internet itself, hence VoIP.
  • Cartel? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thesupermikey (220055) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:07PM (#18105006) Homepage Journal
    I'm I right in understanding that the way cell phone companies control their towers now, I to call it a cartel?

    Additionally, the cellphone makers are leasing public property (the airwaves) and building a fence around them to keep the public out (unless you buy a key / plan from them)

    Are these metaphors off base?
  • by Scareduck (177470) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:08PM (#18105010) Homepage Journal
    "Network neutrality" in the case of the Internet is about customers' traffic getting the usual "common carrier" treatment. In the case of the Skype proposal, it's nothing less than an attempt to get something (access to cell towers and related equipment) for nothing (without having to pay for it). The writeup is both disturbing and misleading.
    • by errxn (108621)

      The writeup is both disturbing and misleading.
      You must be new here.
    • by Babbster (107076)
      I couldn't find anything in the linked article that says Skype wants to use the cellular system "for nothing," anymore than, say, a DSL ISP links up to the Internet for nothing. "Opening" doesn't equal "make it free" as in beer but rather "give us a way to access your system with our software." In fact, that would be a bad thing for Skype because if the system was open and cost nothing to use then industrious open-source people could create their own software (given the necessary "open" hardware/OS) to al
    • No -- Skype was quite explicit that this would be for subscribers to a voice and/or data plan. This is about phone customers being able to run Skype over their paid-for connections.
  • Competition? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShaunC (203807) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:10PM (#18105018)

    Given the competition that exists within the industry, is this needed?

    Competition? As in where I get to choose from one of [Verizon|Cingular|Sprint], all of which charge mostly the same, and whichever one I pick, I'm either stuck with them for 2 years or stuck paying exorbitant fees to "fire" them and switch to one of their clones? I'm intentionally glossing over the prepaid services (Virgin Mobile, for example) because they tend to piggyback on other carriers' networks (Virgin is actually Sprint's network, so in essence if you use Virgin Mobile, you're really using Sprint).

    Saying there's real competition in the wireless industry is like saying that because Sony, BMG, and Warner all make CDs, there's "real competition" in that industry. Cable companies were forced to accept all comers (see Time Warner's cables being used by Earthlink, often at a lower fee than TW's RoadRunner service) - and hell, my cable company doesn't even lock me into a 2-year contract...
    • by Cloud 9 (42467)
      Nobody's forcing you into a contract. Just pay full price for your own equipment and pay extra for the N&W minutes and in-network calling.

      Doesn't sound like such a bad deal now, does it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by profplump (309017)
        They won't let me bring in my own equipment. I've tried. They won't even let me re-activate equipment that I bought from them and which is still 100% compatible with their network. I've tried that too.

        If you know of a carrier who will allow me to buy my own equipment (not buy new equipment from them) I'd be happy to do just as you suggest. Until then it's contracts with ridiculous fees or a requirement that I buy the newest, fanciest equipment at a price they dictate without any competition. Suggesting that
        • Re:Competition? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by WafflesMcDuff (791660) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:13AM (#18105408)
          If they didn't allow you to activate a handset that you say is 100% compatible, then I can almost certainly guess what the problem was. A few years back the FCC passed a law requiring all cell phones being activated to be cell 911-compliant. Basically these newer phones contained the ability to automatically connect you to the correct 911 call center when you dial 911 to make sure the emergency services get to you in time. (without this you may as well be calling Delouth Minnesota's call center from New York City). They allowed phones that were ALREADY active without this ability to remain active, as it was deemed unfair to customers to make them go out and buy a new handset against their will all of a sudden. So as long as grandma keeps paying her bill she can keep that brick that sits disused in her drawer active. However, if she deactivates it and then decides she wants it again after all, she will now have to go buy a new phone (or get a free one with a 2 year contract). In reality, your handset is probably 90% compatible with the other 10% being the 911 accessibility that is mandated by law to activate a handset.
          • Basically these newer phones contained the ability to automatically connect you to the correct 911 call center when you dial 911 to make sure the emergency services get to you in time. (without this you may as well be calling Delouth Minnesota's call center from New York City).

            While the reason for requiring the newer phones is correct, I hope to God you're wrong about needing it to find your city. Cell phones only work because the provider can find which cell tower you're next to at any given time so they
    • I've always wondered how such a model managed to survive for so long in the US. Mainly because the US has a habit of building market models that are very cheap for the consumer. Seems to be the exception with phones.

      In Ireland for example I just buy my phone (cheapest good phone $52) that comes with $105 free credit. The phone isn't normally locked to the SIM and if it is you just get it unlocked. A new SIM is $6 and you basically preload your sim with the credit beforehand. I've had my current phone for ov
    • Canada has the same problem in general. E.g. $50 a month with few features and limited airtime. But recently I went travelling and discovered SIMD cards. In Bali you can get a prepaid SIMD phone number with no contract for $2, and additional minutes are about 10c, a text is 2.5c. So I did some digging and discovered two of the carriers also sold pay as you go SIMD in Canada, and now I'm paying about $10 a month, although I do only use that phone to coordinate meeting up with people. Anyway, they just d
    • by mcrbids (148650)
      Saying there's real competition in the wireless industry is like saying that because Sony, BMG, and Warner all make CDs, there's "real competition" in that industry.

      I guess you don't live in Northern California, then. Here there's Metro PCS [metropcs.com] which offers unlimited plans starting at just $30/month. (and often cheaper, if you call when they're running ads)

      They started in Sacramento, CA and the San Fransisco Bay Area, and quickly moved into my area. (Chico, CA) Just checked their coverage, and they've got areas
  • Free ride for Skype? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:13PM (#18105040) Homepage

    This article seems to be a mishmash of specious and self-serving claims on Skype's part.

    The reason for Skype's interest in the issue is obvious: they want to force network operators to allow Skype-enabled calling across their networks, something currently prohibited on wireless data plans. In its filing, Skype argues that this capability would offer "tremendous new sources of price competition provided by entities such as Skype," and that's exactly why wireless operators will fight the plan tooth and nail.

    And the problem here is exactly what? It sounds to me like Skype is saying, "Hey guys, if you let us use your networks we'll undercut all your prices and undermine your business models. Then all that money you spent to build out your cellular networks will benefit us instead of you! Deal?"

    Unfortunately, the "invisible hand" has been a little too invisble here, and no operator actually offers a wide-open network. Skype thinks a smidgen of government regulation could actually help out quite a bit

    No doubt it would. They're trying it in Venezuela. What's the basis for doing it here? Why should Skype benefit and the cellular carriers gain nothing?

    Skype (and Wu's paper) point out the various ways that the wireless phone companies block consumer choice: crippling features on phones, locking handsets to operators, limiting consumers' ability to install third-party applications, and limiting the terms of service with bandwidth caps and restrictions on what content can be accessed through the network (Skype calls are forbidden, for instance).

    "Block consumer choice" is an interesting choice of wording here. I've heard most of these complaints before. Then again, T-Mobile allows me to install third-party apps on my BlackBerry, and I can even use it as a wireless modem if I hook it up to my laptop. Presumably I could then run Skype on the laptop (though how well it would work is another story). Kinda makes me wonder what Skype is actually hoping to achieve.

    Verizon, Cingular, et al. hate this and would love to keep crippling WiFi and Bluetooth access on their phones in order to keep traffic flowing through their network, using their (high-priced) services.

    What do WiFi and Bluetooth have to do with running Skype over a cellular network? This sounds like a red herring to allow them to start talking about "crippling" again. How have the carriers "crippled" their WiFi-enabled phones anyway? This one I have not heard of.

    And they manage to avoid the most important question: If Skype is encouraging the government to pass regulation to allow Skype into the telcos' markets, can we therefore assume that Skype is willing to itself be regulated, exactly as the telcos are regulated today?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr2001 (90979)

      And the problem here is exactly what? It sounds to me like Skype is saying, "Hey guys, if you let us use your networks we'll undercut all your prices and undermine your business models. Then all that money you spent to build out your cellular networks will benefit us instead of you! Deal?"

      I don't think so. It looks like they just want the carriers to stop restricting equipment and applications. The carriers would still charge for access to the network, kilobyte usage, etc. but without any limitations on which phones you can activate or what you can do with the kilobytes you're paying for.

    • by zarthrag (650912) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:31PM (#18105174)
      What do WiFi and Bluetooth have to do with running Skype over a cellular network? This sounds like a red herring to allow them to start talking about "crippling" again. How have the carriers "crippled" their WiFi-enabled phones anyway? This one I have not heard of.

      By disabling features such as OBEX push/file transfer, you can be kept from sending files directly from one phone to another, or another computer...without using your cellular modem (possibly at a per-KB rate). Moving pictures/video from your camera would then become a costly affair if you actually use that feature often.

      Wifi generally cannot be used for voip at all. This isn't necessairly crippling, but a complete oversight of what consumers want. I have a wireless network at home, why can't my phone support using it instead of a per-minute rate when I'm here, or at work, or at the bookstore.

      By opening the network, device makers can be free to innovate in ways that will make the iPhone look like a turd on the sidewalk.

      • Wifi generally cannot be used for voip at all. This isn't necessairly crippling, but a complete oversight of what consumers want. I have a wireless network at home, why can't my phone support using it instead of a per-minute rate when I'm here, or at work, or at the bookstore.

        Soon phones will, but you'll still eat out of your monthly minute bucket. Why? Because even though you're not using a tower, you're still using the cell provider's central switching equipment to terminate the call somewhere. And if you're dialing outbound, the provider has to pay to terminate that call at a per minute/per second rate (depends greatly on contracts with termination providers).

        • by swillden (191260) *

          Wifi generally cannot be used for voip at all. This isn't necessairly crippling, but a complete oversight of what consumers want. I have a wireless network at home, why can't my phone support using it instead of a per-minute rate when I'm here, or at work, or at the bookstore.

          Soon phones will, but you'll still eat out of your monthly minute bucket. Why? Because even though you're not using a tower, you're still using the cell provider's central switching equipment to terminate the call somewhere. And if you're dialing outbound, the provider has to pay to terminate that call at a per minute/per second rate (depends greatly on contracts with termination providers).

          Unless you're calling another VOIP phone. In that case, you're only using the provider's system to set up the connection to the remote phone (session initiation). After that, the session would be direct from phone to phone via the Internet, with no need to involve either phone service carrier.

          • True. But until a critical mass is reached and a fair amount of users can have their calls passed phone to phone directly, termination costs are still going to be an issue.
            • by swillden (191260) *

              True. But until a critical mass is reached and a fair amount of users can have their calls passed phone to phone directly, termination costs are still going to be an issue.

              If the network were really open, you could buy that service from another provider, like Vonage, or Skype.

              • Not true. A certain amount of control must be traded for stability in a system. Does Skype work? Yes. Would you run your business, 911, etc off of it? Of course not. At the end of the day, there's no accountibility.

                Do you want to be able to dial someone with a phone number? A provider has to have control over that DID number (Direct In Dial) and be able to route it somewhere. Do you need to terminate a call off-network (non-VoIP)? A provider has to handle it.

                If I have to choose between an open network whe

                • by swillden (191260) *

                  Actually, in the scenario we're postulating, it's the phone that's really "open", not the network (I misspoke, because I hadn't thought it all the way through), so handset makers would be able to put any combination of features they want into the device, one of which would be the ability to connect to a cell network to which you're subscribed.

                  In that case, the cell service provider needn't know or care anything at all about what packets the device might send via a WiFi AP. So a handset could use a servi

      • by anagama (611277)

        Wifi generally cannot be used for voip at all.

        I see the "generally" there but, I'm presently having good luck with my voip box connected to a color ibook (802.11b, no "g") which is acting as a WEP encrypted wireless bridge/music player. My phone works fine, despite a lot of jumps:
        voip_box -> g3_ibook_wireless -> wireless_router -> firewall -> cable_modem -> internet

        By the same token, I've had voip boxes from a different much more famous company connected directly to my network connectio

    • Have you heard about the Nokia E62 [nokiausa.com]?

      Do you realise that the hardware in this phone is identical to the Nokia E61 [nokia.com]?

      The major difference between these two models (apart from the frequencies and those things) is that the WLAN (802.11g) support is disabled on the E62. I'll let you speculate why that is.

      I have an E61. I also have an unlimited 3G data plan with my provider. I can use Fring [fring.com] to make Skype voice calls over the data connection, either using 3G or WLAN.

      Now, ask yourself the following: Why i

  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:18PM (#18105068)
    I've often wondered why data sent through the mobile networks (voice, internet etc) is so much more expensive than land based traffic. I mean you wouldn't sit around browsing the web over a mobile phone, even if it did have a huge screen, since you'd go bankrupt. Surely it costs more to dig up a whole city and lay cable than it does to erect some mobile masts, so why is data transferred by cable so much cheaper? Also aside from the initial expense of digging up a city, surely maintenance is more expensive for cable companies since it also involves digging and disrupting traffic etc. It seems to me that we are being massively ripped off.
    • I sit around browsing the web with my mobile phone all the time. I even hook my laptop up to it and surf the web at decent speeds. I can even watch videos on YouTube. The latency is horrible, but what can I really expect from a reasonably immature form of network connectivity? Sure, I pay a pretty penny for my "Unlimited Phone As Modem" plan from Sprint, but it's not *that* badly priced compared to an equivalent land-line telephone & network service.

      Prices do need to come down. Speeds do need to go up

    • by Bluesman (104513) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:02AM (#18105342) Homepage
      Supply and demand.

      There is only so much bandwidth available on a cellular system, as the frequencies at which you may transmit are limited (extremely limited, I might add).

      The frequencies sent over cables are not regulated, so you can multiplex to your heart's content and achieve massive bandwidth that way. (It also helps that there's much less interference and loss in wired communication.)

      The reason the wireless phone service price hasn't changed is because if it got any cheaper, the network would become saturated because people wouldn't self-limit their phone usage as much. The reason that all phone companies charge about the same is more due to the physics of radio communication than collusion. I guarantee that if Cingular could charge half of what they do and still make a profit, they would, because they'd put all the others out of business, and it's a very competitive market.

      The phone companies know exactly how many users they can support at what data rates down to insane degrees of accuracy. There are ugly equations with many logarithms and square roots in them that tell them this.

      For example, you can determine, based on the frequencies you're allocated and how you're multiplexing your users' data, what signal-to-interference ratio you need to support 336 users with a 2% chance of a dropped call during the peak usage hour.

      The problem is, you can't just add network capacity without limit. It's a tradeoff between cell size, signal strength, and interference. Decreasing cell size might give you the ability to support more users, but you'll also have to decrease the signal strength at the same time or you'll just be adding interference. Using directional antennas will help with the interference problem, but you'll have to handle many more hand-offs and overall QoS may suffer.

      Whereas, with wired communication, if you have one wire and then you add another, you've just doubled your bandwidth. Wireless is a much more limited resource, and always will be.
    • by dido (9125)

      Good point, but I think that part of the problem is that wireless bandwidth is a lot, lot less than land-based bandwidth. With the best WiMAX technology you can get at most 70 mbps: compare that with even an OC-3 fiber which is more than double that at 155 mbps, and if you lay an OC-192 you can get more than a hundred times the bandwidth of WiMAX.

  • is this needed?
    I didn't know I wanted it, but now I do.
  • no competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brat Food (9397) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:29PM (#18105150) Homepage
    I personally dont think theres any cell phone competition in the US.

    I mean look, my cell phone bill has never /really/ gone down. My minutes have gone up slightly for the price, but with the ubiquity, thats the least they could do.

    These guys charge for things that barely use infrastructure thats already up (10c a text message? cmon).

    They dont compete directly on price either. Or service. You can never have it all with these guys, its al a carte and they take you to the bank.

    They neuter phones, and find other great ways to take your money.

    If there was competition, wed all be paying $40 or less for /every/ feature.

    If the cell band opens up, the cell companies are screwed. People will come along and offer service and make a reasonable profit for 1/4 of the prices offered now.

    Sorry for the tired, bitter, rant.
  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:30PM (#18105156)
    Given the competition that exists within the industry, is this needed?"

    I don't know if I consider this industry all that competitive--it's an oligopoly mixed with a cultural monopoly (what I mean by that is it's the same type of people running all of the companies. The people who run what we now call, again, AT&T, are basically old phone company fuddy-duddies who think it's a privilege (I'm using that word in the worst way possible) that we all have phone service. The same applies to Verizon and to a lesser extent T-Mobile and Sprint/Nextel.)

    I'm not sure what I think of the idea. Half of me thinks it would be great, and the other half thinks that the companies would decline to upgrade to 3G, thinking that they'd be better off financially keeping the network slow enough so that Skype couldn't work on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by figment (22844)
      While you are correct as asessing it as an oligpoly, you miss one important part -- how it became an oligopoly.

      The rights to that spectrum were carefully auctioned off by the FCC in a semi-public auction. The companies who currently own these rights (Sprint, T-Mobile, etc) paid literally hundreds of millions of dollars for their spectrum property rights.

      Thus any re-opening up of the spectrum will easily cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. All this for skype. This seems quite rediculous, there is
  • by hirschma (187820) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:38PM (#18105218)
    From TFA: "Unfortunately, the "invisible hand" has been a little too invisble here, and no operator actually offers a wide-open network."

    Hmm, let's see. With T-Mobile, I can:

    - Buy any GSM phone that I pretty much want to, unlocked,
    - Put in my SIM card,
    - Use all of the T-Mobile services,
    - Enjoy wi-fi,
    - Enjoy unfettered Bluetooth,
    - Enjoy an all-you-can eat data plan (albeit, at EDGE speeds only).

    So why doesn't everyone jump on T-Mobile? Well, on the other hand,

    - I pay more for my service (no one is subsidizing my phone),
    - Can't use all of T-mobile's services or voice plans (no "five friends" for me),
    - Can't get any tech support (see, your phone is not supported, bye)
    - Get scary warnings on the "my T-Mobile site" since they cannot identify my phone.

    I have no interest in Skype. But I do have interest in a BYO phone plan at lower cost, and the option to enjoy all of the plans that T-Mobile offers. Perhaps they have a point.

    jh
  • by stox (131684) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:52PM (#18105284) Homepage
    We keep coming up on this question since the divestiture of AT&T by Judge Green in 1984. The problem with current carriers is that they want to control the transport, and the value that can be added. This really is the same debate as breaking the stranglehold on the local loop. He who controls the last mile wins!
  • by straponego (521991) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:56PM (#18105306)
    I was involved in handling the technical aspects of the bidding on the FCC PCS Wireless C Block Auction. This auction was supposed to enable a fourth cell phone carrier to buy spectrum across the US in every market. The auction was limited to small businesses, owned by a woman or minority. You know, fresh blood to compete with the huge incumbents to spur competition, lower prices, and encourage innovation. The I-Phone's random access voice mail? I put that in our business plan, in 1996. Anyway.

    The second largest bidder in the C Block Auction was BDPCS. They bid $2.5 billion. They did their bidding from the offices of US West (now Qwest). They then immediately defaulted, because... they were not actually a real company. They'd never existed before the auction, had never sold a product or service.

    They had bid on all the territories in which US West sold cell phone service.

    The court cases in which they contested their default lasted for years. Years in which there was no fourth competitor in US West's markets.

    The FCC was fine with this.

    Oh, and the bidding process? For each round of bidding, you had to download the results via a proprietary Windows application, over modem, from a 900 number. The download speeds you would get from this number, no matter where you dialed from, amounted to approximately one tenth of the speed of the modem connection.

    Yes, the FCC is a public government agency, the data belonged to the public, and the Internet did, in fact, exist back then. But I added it up, and whoever ran that deal must have made millions from that procedure. A cousin of an FCC commissioner, perchance?

    What I'm getting at, is that if you expect the FCC to enable competition for Skype or anybody else, in the best interests of the public, well. The FCC now, ten years later, is *much* more corrupt than it was then. When Colin Powell's son Michael became head of the FCC and was instrumental in approving the AOL-Time Warner deal (Colin was on AOL's board of directors at the time; the deal made him about $4 million)... Powell was when it started to get really bad.

    Now, the FCC operates purely in the interests of those who can afford their favor.

  • Why won't this happen? Because Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, AT&T/Cingular will not let their networks be opened. These companies spent truckloads of money building networks that they will not let be taken away and I cannot see an administrative agency getting any sort of go ahead to do this.

    Is it a good idea? No. They are private networks and they should not be taken away from their owners.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by n3umh (876572)
      No one is proposing taking the networks away from the cell companies. They still get your money when you use Skype over their network.

      What they would be taking away from the cell companies is the stranglehold they have on the data services you can get. I think Skype has a good case.

      The advancement of wireless communication is not well served by the current crop of cellular providers. They want to use the data capacity they've built to charge you $3 for the latest Justin Timberlake video, and to l
  • The fact is, with the way the major carriers are at this point it would be IMPOSSIBLE to integrate all the networks so that so long as there is a tower in range of your phone, your phone will work despite what carrier owns the tower or what carrier provides your service....

    Because when it comes down to it all the major carriers use completely different signal types:

    Sprint: CDMA*
    Nextel: iDen
    Verizon: TDMA/EvDO*
    Cingular/AT&T Wireless: GSM

    *I could have these two switched but I don't feel that double checkin
  • Using GSM, the networks don't really interfere with what devices I can use on the network - so long as it takes a SIM card and I've paid it up I'm sweet (they might lock down the phones they subsidise and sell to Joe SixPack, but that is their business, I can take the cheaper deal or find my own)

    So if the cell networks open up and let people install Skype on their phones, fine, but if that is eating up their profits won't they just make data costs prohibitive? or make data transmission of the type Skype req
  • It worked for MCI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Skype is trying to go down the path trod by MCI back in the day where it used a combination of litigation and whining at the government to convince them that the only way to "protect" consumers from the big, bad meanie that was until recently Ma Bell was to force AT&T to allow MCI to use their existing infrastructure for free, so that a competitor stood a chance of getting their foot in the door.

    Going on thirty years later, we've all seen how well this particular arrangement has benefited consumers.

    More
    • by stox (131684)
      Actually, if it wasn't for MCI and Carterphone, you would be paying 10 times what you do now for long distance, and the Internet, as we know it wouldn't exist. We would all be happily "surfing" the net at 128Kbps paying by the minute over ISDN.
  • this is a ploy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jay2003 (668095) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:59AM (#18105614)
    Skype does not want wireless (or wired carriers for that matter) blocking their VoIP calls. This request is a warning to the wireless carriers that Skype will push for very disruptive regulatory changes if their traffic is blocked. While Skype likely has low probability of successfully lobbying the FCC on the matter, the impact to the carriers is huge so they likely won't want to gamble since call revenue lost to Skype traffic is only at least at the beginning is only a minor ammount.
  • Competition is Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bellum Aeternus (891584) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @01:53AM (#18105884)

    While I don't like Skype per se, they bring up a good point and have Congress's ear. The current mobile providers do everything they can to reduce customer choice and therefore competition. They lock phones, force users into long contracts, and charge outrageous prices. Look to Asia and Europe for examples of successful, open networks with no locked phones and no contracts (yes, you can get a contract for a lower price but you're not required).

    Common carrier laws should be applied to the telcos and to Skype; in fact to any large network. The government is supposed to server the people, not businesses. Everyday I hope that somebody in Congress will remember this.

    • government is supposed to server the people, not businesses

      [sarcasm]Are U crazy? Who do you think pays for their re-election? Do you have any idea how much it costs to run and win?

      Do you think your pitiful $3.00 contribution to the president's election fund in your Tax Return is enough to win an election?

      Wake up Buddy![/sarcasm]

      Now to talk reality: This dems controlled congress won on the promise that they would bring our Boys home. What did they do? NOTHING.

      Money speaks everywhere, and corporates have

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @09:22AM (#18108156) Journal

    Given the competition that exists within the industry, is this needed?"


    Yes, for the simple reason that one must always buy a new cell phone if one wants to change providers. There is no reason for a cell phone to be locked to a service provider other than to "lock in" customers. Just like software and those proprietary file formats everyone hates so much.Cell phone companies use the "discount" on "their" cellphones to justify charging early termination fees. This keeps customers from switching companies and so companies can provide crappy service with little repercussion.

    If cell phones were unlocked, then there would be no reason for the high termination fees and one could take their cell phone with all the contacts, settings, etc, and use them on a competitor's service (assuming they are compatible services). The result would be companies providing better service.

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