The eBay Inc. unit, a pioneer in peer-to-peer VOIP (voice over
Internet Protocol), petitioned the FCC this week to affirm that the
landmark Carterphone decision applies to the cellular world. That
ruling, which involved an early type of wireless handset, said
carriers couldn't stop consumers from attaching any device to the
wired telecommunications network as long as it couldn't do any damage.
Letting any device connect to cellular networks would gradually open
the door to a wide range of new choices for consumers, including
handsets that use VOIP for voice calls over operators' 3G
(third-generation) data networks. Almost all cell phones in use on
mobile networks in the U.S. are sold by the operators and locked so
they can't be used on another provider's network. But Skype's proposal
also would stop carriers from blocking or forbidding applications on
3G networks -- again, as long as those applications can't damage the
The plan cuts to the heart of mobile operators' revenue stream, which
still predominantly comes from voice calls and also depends on
exclusive ringtone, music, video and other services offered by the
carriers. But there's no reason the earlier ruling on the wireline
phone network shouldn't apply to mobile, according to Christopher
Libertelli, Skype's senior director for government and regulatory
affairs. In addition, preventing carriers from blocking outside
applications is in keeping with the FCC's policy on network
neutrality, he said.
Cellular providers have always had closed networks, but the rollout of
3G makes possible many more uses of those networks, he said.
"What we're trying to do is get in front of that trend so that policy
is set in the correct way," Libertelli said. In addition to the new
rules, Skype proposed an industry forum to determine what types of
devices are harmful to the wireless network.
The mobile industry promptly slammed Skype's petition. It would freeze
innovation, according to a statement by Steve Largent, president and
CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA),
an industry group.
"Skype's self-interested filing contains glaring legal flaws and a
complete disregard for the vast consumer benefits provided by the
competitive marketplace," Largent said.
Skype's Libertelli said the company has a big job to do in educating
cellular companies and others but believes the change would help
carriers by creating new uses for their networks.
It's hard to predict how the FCC may respond to Skype's petition, said
Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research, in Mokena,
Illinois. In recent years the agency has been alternately supportive
and wary of disruptive technologies, she said. It might even drag its
heels on making a ruling, not wanting to be drawn into a big political
fight. It's most likely to come down somewhere in the middle, Johnson
Though the cost of phone calls might fall if Skype won, there could be
a downside: Without the incentive of selling their captive services,
cellular companies might be less motivated to upgrade their networks,
Skype expects the agency to put the petition out for public comment
and response, a process that would take several weeks.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at
For more news and headlines, please go to: