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AT&T Says “Come On In” - To What?

by Sachin Balagopalan on December 7, 2007 · Comments

I saw the headline this morning before my first cup of coffee and I thought to myself “wow we’re certainly moving in the right direction swiftly - Android, then Verizon and now AT&T “. However later on as that seasonal gingerbread latte from Dunkin Donuts worked its way into my system I realized that it was not too long ago I got my wife an unlocked Motorola Razr (yeah remember the Razr? :) ) and slipped in the SIM card from her old “AT&T” phone and viola! she had a new Razr that worked on the AT&T network.

I think Om Malik put it in perspective when he said “I might have to start translating OPEN into “We’re Scared of Google.”” in his post today. The announcement by AT&T is really about nothing. You don’t even need to wait for your contract to expire before you can use another GSM enabled handset on their network provided it is unlocked. And once your contract expires you can switch over to a monthly plan as well. There seems to be no clear cut definition on what being “open” entails in the wireless industry today. IMO the day I can walk into any store buy a handset and have it work on any network of my choosing without being tied to a contract/plan and be free to download and use any available mobile app without the carrier or the manufacturer dictating it then thats the day we will truly be “open”. I still believe that day will come sooner than later but I don’t think we’re there by any stretch based on these latest announcements from AT&T and Verizon. Verizon announced recently that it was going to switch over to Long Term Evolution (LTE) for its 4g deployment. LTE belongs to the GSM family and Verizon’s decision to go that route as opposed to Qualcomm’s CDMA is definitely positive. I think the day will arrive sooner than later when the carriers will truly open their networks and yes maybe we will have to thank Google for it. Verizon’s recent announcement to switch to LTE for its 4GL implementation is one step closer to being open IMO.

In the meantime the only thing I found interesting in the USA Today announcement was the following:

AT&T for years kept quiet the fact that wireless customers had the option of using devices and applications other than those offered by AT&T. But now salespeople in AT&T phone stores will make sure that consumers “know all their options” before making a final purchase.

So as AT&T customers for all these years we were pretty much short changed and were it not for Google and Android we would still be kept in the dark? Think about all those “not so tech savvy” customers who had no idea at all over the years. I’ll leave it for interpretation.

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