Google’s entry to wireless?

I never really intended to write so much on spectrum but the topic seems very timely right now. We have the incumbent carriers vying to shore up their monopolies, new companies seeing new mobile opportunities and a prime piece of spectrum real estate up on the auction block in early 2008.

Recently some news broke about Google both disclosing their interest in potentially buying some spectrum rights but also, and more importantly, their intention to lobby the government towards releasing this new 700 MHz band as open access. The specific details of what they see ‘open access’ as meaning is not completely clear but the promise, at the very least, is that any device will be allowed to access and use this bandwidth – perhaps more akin to the way we use the 2.4 GHz unlicensed spectrum today.

I believe it is important that Google, a large company with such a unique perspective on the world, is getting involved in this dialogue about spectrum utilization. For too long we’ve had to put up with our existing telecommunication carriers whom are more interested in staking claim and protecting their existing investments as opposed to leveraging new investments for future growth and innovation. I don’t mean to be so “pro-Google” but this industry desperately needs someone, anyone with the ideas, drive, and financial capital, to challenge the incumbents who have just simply become lazy and uninterested in building new services. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether it is Google or someone else that comes to the table to prove that innovation in the wireless world is still possible, so long as the status quo is disrupted and we can finally make progress.

A few quotes from Verizon and AT&T representatives provides a painfully obvious view into how truly out of touch these guys are:

“The one-size-fits-all mentality that characterizes open access regimes for the wireless industry would begin the process of stifling innovation and creativity in our industry,”

Verizon Wireless general counsel Steven Zipperstein

“…open-access network would deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars, and inhibit the growth of wireless broadband in the country.”

Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulatory.

I guess they somehow missed, or chose to forget that the internet itself could be considered a platform of “open access” and because of this its usage has grown to over 1 billion people worldwide and spawned an immense global economy building new technology to leverage this platform. Mr. Quinn’s attempt to claim that an open approach will deprive the taxpayers of billions of dollars is ludicrous in the face of the far greater economic benefits gained from the internet in the form of jobs, scientific advancement, global collaboration and an increasingly knowledge based economy. I suppose however, that in the end I am missing the point, as god forbid we open up the wireless world too much and empower more people to become potential competitors to AT&T and Verizon.