Carterphone for Cellular- Can Dinosaurs Clap?

Mobile unified communications took a shot in the chops this week when FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced in a speech at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas that he will oppose Skype’s petition to open up existing wireless carrier networks to outside devices. “In light of the industry’s embrace of this more open approach, I think it’s premature for the commission to place any other requirements on these networks,” Martin told the audience. Not surprisingly, his comments were met with loud applause from an audience dominated by cellular carriers whose view toward openness I have already compared to the KGB.

In a classic column in Business Communications Review in 2005, my pal Dave Passmore of the Burton Group raised the call for a Carterphone for Wireless. Industry veterans (“gray-haired” veterans) will recognize a reference to the 1968 Supreme Court decision that forced the Bell companies to permit non-Bell devices to be connected to the public telephone network. The Carterphone ruling created the interconnect industry, which in turn gave rise to a burst of creativity in business telephone systems that led to lower prices, better technologies, and eventually IP PBXs and unified communications. Skypehad been pushing for a similarregulation to force mobile operators to allow the connection of any device that doesn’t harm the network.

Given the cellular industry’s status as “the new Bell System”, it appears that Mr. Martin’s viewpoint may be geared toward snagging one of those lucrative jobs in the cellular industry when his tenure at the FCC comes to an end.

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