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FCC to Let You Use Your Cell Phone with Any Carrier

FCC Freeing Wireless AccessBummed that the iPhone only works with AT&T networks? So is the FCC, amazingly enough, and the regulating body is taking some steps to ensure that sort of thing won't happen for much longer. The FCC is taking bids on some new frequencies that wireless providers like AT&T and Sprint are expected to want. There's nothing particularly new in that, but this time there's a catch: Bidders for the given frequencies would be required to let subscribers to use any phone and any software they like.

These provisions, sponsored by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, would mean that the AT&T iPhone exclusivity deal would effectively be illegal if AT&T were to use that frequency for the device. Additionally, Apple would no longer be able to force you to use their software, it would instead have to let you install anything you like.

This all sounds nice, and this is an interesting step by the FCC to ensure the openness of frequencies that are sold to private companies, but it's unlikely that major wireless corporations with huge investments to protect will be reined in by some silly provision. And, if they are, expect to pay a lot more for the privilege. Europeans, after all, pay $500 or more for most phones, but they can use them with any carrier. We Americans get our free and heavily-discounted phones thanks to heavy subsidies by the carriers, which are willing to help out financially in exchange for your two-year commitment.

And then there's the issue of different networks. In Europe, everything works on GSM, so your phone will work with any carrier -- literally. In the U.S., AT&T and T-Mobile are on the GSM, while Verizon and Sprint are on CDMA. This means that any "unlocked" phone you might buy in the U.S. will likely only work with either the first two carriers or the latter two carriers -- not all four.

And you thought the iPhone was already too expensive ...

How about you? Would you rather pay more for a phone you can use with any (or more than one) carrier, or are you okay with a two-year contract in exchange for a less expensive phone?

From 'USA Today'

[UPDATE: Thanks for the correction, Carol!]

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Tags: FCC, iPhone

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