[sc:mobile-category ]Over the Christmas holidays I was over at some relatives who are in their late 70’s, sitting on their counter was their new cordless phone (the land line ones, they don’t have a cell phone) and right beside it was their Bell caller-id box. You know the ones that came out when caller ID was first introduced, small (for the time), white with a two-line display on it.
It started me thinking about the history of the landline in comparison to the wireless providers.
Many years ago, when I bought my first modem (in all of its 300 baud acoustic coupler glory I might add), Bell controlled just about everything about the landline. They was a court case going to the Supreme Court of Canada where Bell was fighting for the right to control if you could use a modem on your standard residential phone line. Bell wanted to sell you a dedicated data line at 10 times the cost with no other features.
Bell lost and rest is history. But this fight was just one of many over the years since phone service was first introduced. At one point (not even that long ago) you couldn’t use your own phone, you had to rent one from Bell.
That kind of sounds like where we are with wireless today. The wireless providers are fighting tooth and nail to not lose this fight like they did with the phone system, but should they?
Opening up the phone system to modems, faxes and other devices created an explosion of demand for phone lines and increased their profits exponentially.
Could the same kind of thing happen if the wireless providers opened up their network? Allowed all kinds of devices on to their networks could certainly increase the demand for network access and likewise increase the profits of the providers.
Likewise if all cell phones were unlocked by default, mobility between the providers would be easier and increase competition.
Of course there are a few drawbacks, the cost of smart phones is still pretty high for most people to be able to afford without carrier financing (let’s not call it subsidies, the customer is paying for it with higher plan costs after all). However that seems like a temporary circumstance as smart phone functionality will soon peak and then you should see real prices start to drop.
Perhaps the most confusing issue for the customer will be different frequencies between the carriers, but that could be handled through labeling.
I know the wireless providers will be fighting it tooth and nail, but in the long run it seems like the inevitable end state for all communications companies, it’s only how much time and money they will waste before getting there.