Google has petitioned the FCC regarding Verizon’s win of the 700 Mhz C block spectrum. Google pushed hard for, and won, an “open” mandate for the winner of the 700 Mhz C block. The mandate basically says that the winner of the spectrum must provide open access and allow devices from any source to access the broadband wireless network utilizing that spectrum. Google sees this open access mandate as a gateway for its upcoming wireless Android platform, which will potentially drive millions of users towards their products and solutions. Google believes those same potential users may not be able to easily reach and use Google’s wireless focused products without that open access provision. The competitive implications are numerous because most wireless Internet access is now controlled by wireless carriers through restrictions and “walled garden” approaches. Opening it up, would allow competitors to build relationships with wireless subscribers and perhaps create the “dumb pipe” scenario for wireless broadband, where wireless carriers simply provide a pipe to the Internet, and don’t create any additional value/revenue for them. It’s the same issue currently being debated by wireline broadband carriers – should I just provide the pipe, or should I try to build more value around that access for which I can create incremental revenue.
Of course we know that Verizon and other communications conglomerates are quite crafty. According to Google, Verizon interprets the open access rules a little differently, and don’t intend on providing open access on its own handsets. Google also contends that the open access provision, while being offered through non-Verizon handsets, will be offered at presumably much higher access costs to the consumer, thus discouraging its use. Google is asking the FCC to deny Verizon’s winning bid for the C-block spectrum, which Verizon won for $4.7 billion, unless they take a more broad approach to the open access mandate. This will be one to watch, because its outcome will have profound implications on the wireless competitive landscape.
Read more insight on this issue at the IP Democracy blog.