My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) focuses on the recent government spectrum allocation announcement. I argue that new wireless competition will be welcome news to consumers, however, it represents only part of the solution. The day before the Prentice press conference, U.S.-based Verizon Wireless shocked the industry by announcing that next year it will adopt an "open network" approach that will remove the restrictive walled garden that typifies the incumbent carriers. Instead, its customers will be permitted to use any device and any application that meets minimum technical standards. The Verizon decision comes just weeks after Google introduced a partnership with leading U.S. carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile to create the Open Handset Alliance, which will similarly enable consumers to use devices that are fully open to new innovation and third-party programs.
This rush toward an open cellphone market stands in sharp contrast to years of restricted networks that left decisions about new devices and functionality strictly in the hands of a few dominant cellphone providers.