Wireless carriers crow about openness

CTIA event also features new smartphones, back-haul strategies

The message from the big carriers at this year's CTIA Wireless conference was crystal clear: We're opening up as fast as we can, just don't push us.

From keynote speeches to demonstrations to press luncheons, executives from major wireless carriers touted the openness of their networks. Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam spoke about Verizon's Open Development Initiative, which the company launched to entice more device manufacturers and mobile application developers to create products to connect to Verizon's open-access network. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega, meanwhile, said that his company had become much more willing in recent months to embrace Google's Android platform for its mobile devices. And Sprint CEO Dan Hesse extolled his company's charter membership in the Android-promoting Open Handset Alliance and said that Sprint's goal was "to be the easiest to work with for content developers and applications developers."

But while carriers were eager to show their newfound appreciation for open networks, they also made a point of saying that they would open up at their own pace. During his opening keynote address, for instance, McAdam railed against the "clear and present danger" that government regulations could pose for the wireless industry. In particular McAdam said that the recent moves toward openness were proof that wireless markets should be left to function on their own, and that the wireless industry was evolving far too quickly for the government to regulate it.

"To regulate this business is like taking a Polaroid snapshot of an industry moving at full-motion video speeds," he said. "By the time that film develops, it's no longer relevant to the environment that we're in."

US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin followed McAdam's address by announcing that he would urge his fellow commissioners to dismiss a petition filed by Skype last year that asked the commission to force carriers to completely open up their networks. Martin said it would be "premature" to force government action against the carriers in light of their recent support for more open networks, and that he didn't believe in slapping industrywide open-network requirements on every carrier.

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