The FCC voted today to formally review the U.S. wireless industry, to determine if more regulation is needed to increase competition and improve the consumer experience. The “notice of inquiry” process usually takes a year or more and investigations “do not always lead to major regulation,” MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash notes.
And while the FCC is especially interested in exclusive handset deals, like AT&T’s exclusive deal to sell Apple’s iPhone, it’s wrong to assume that anything the FCC does could get you an iPhone that runs on Verizon. (That’s what you want, right?)
Why not? The U.S. wireless industry runs on two different technologies, called CDMA and GSM. AT&T and Verizon’s current mobile phone networks run on different networks, so phones for one network — exclusive or not — are not compatible with the other network.
And we’d be very surprised if the FCC had the audacity — or jurisdiction — to force phone manufacturers like Apple, RIM, etc. to make hardware devices that operate on a specific wireless technology (or both major technologies). Today, and in the future, that will likely remain the manufacturer’s decision.
For the sake of argument, in theory, the FCC could force Apple to offer an iPhone on all GSM-based carriers, like T-Mobile. But again, because of the way the U.S. wireless industry works, that would be a bad experience. Why? Because T-Mobile’s faster 3G network runs on a frequency that Apple’s iPhone doesn’t support. So it’d either be super-slow, running on T-Mobile’s old EDGE network, or Apple would have to use a new, different chip that supports T-Mobile’s 3G frequency. Again, not something the FCC could likely force onto a gadget maker.
Bonus slideshow: 10 iPhone accessories we’d love to have →
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