Federal regulators today are scheduled to pass new rules aimed at breaking open the tightly controlled wireless market, potentially making it easier for consumers to use any handset and software they choose with certain services.
But some analysts are skeptical that the Federal Communications Commission's rules for an upcoming airwaves auction will loosen the grip of big wireless carriers that may be intent on steering consumers to their own cellphones and services. FCC commissioners were negotiating late Monday on ways to prevent that from happening.
"Open-access" requirements are expected to be imposed on about a third of the airwaves sold in January's auction. That means the winner of that spectrum would have to offer a service that lets subscribers use any handset and download any software they wish.
For example, a consumer could buy a cellphone from Google and use it on, say, Verizon's network to download Google games or video from the Web. Google, which itself has expressed interest in bidding, has led the push for open access.
Today, big wireless carriers strictly control the devices and applications that work on their networks. The iPhone, for instance, works only on AT&T's network.