FCC Wants Open Broadband

5:55 PM -- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Kevin Martin wants the winner of the 700MHz spectrum auction to allow outside devices on a portion of the wireless broadband airwaves, as long as that doesn't interfere with the overall network.

Martin favors an open broadband policy on part of the soon-to-be auctioned spectrum. He told USA Today that this will allow consumers greater choice in the type of devices and applications they use over this broadband spectrum.

Cellular carriers in the U.S. have traditionally kept a tight grip on gadgets that can run on their networks, locking phones so that they can't be used with other carriers. Martin's plan for the 700MHz spectrum, which will be opened up as analog TV stations move to digital transmissions in 2009, would make the U.S. market more like Europe's, where it is easy to buy an unlocked phone.

The open broadband concept has been back by potential 700MHz bidder Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) as well as Frontline Wireless, LLC , which wants part of the 700MHz spectrum to be used for a nationwide public safety network.

"This auction is not just the last chance -- it is the only chance -- for open networks," Frontline said in a statement today. (See 700MHz Throwdown Looms.)

There have already been some indications that the U.S. wireless market is slowly getting more open recently. Most notably, Sprint Wireless (NYSE: PCS) CTO Barry West has said that he wants to get a multitude of different devices on the company's new WiMax network, which is due for a nationwide launch in 2008. (See Sprint's West: WiMax on Track.)

Typically, however, U.S. carriers maintain a good deal of control over the market. Even the world's No. 1 phone vendor, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), had to go it alone with launching WiFi-enabled enterprise phones recently. (See Nokia Tries to Unlock US Market.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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