Mr. Genakowski, please help us tear down these walls!

December 22, 2009

Kevin Tofel of jkontherun has penned a masterpiece post on his frustration with the US cellular landscape.  In summary, he wants to have a data only line and US carriers make that incredibly difficult to do on the up and up.  There is certainly some trickeration one can employ (see the comments on his post), but his point is this shouldn’t be necessary.

We should at minimum be able to bring our own hardware to a carrier and get a data only plan, paying for voice by the minute as needed (one guy in the comments boasted that he used just 13 minutes last month and that was a heavy month for him).  My dream of course is something more like the European model where every carrier uses the same standard (GSM) and 3G frequency (2100 Mhz) and if you’re willing to pony up for an unlocked phone, you can purchase any pay as you go SIM card you please, and bounce from carrier to carrier depending on where you’re at or what the best deal du jour happens to be. 

Alas, the muddled standards on which the North American cellular industry was built make this a pipe dream for now, and the foreseeable future, except for one thing I had only marginally considered – what if worldwide cellular industry disagreement over what the voice standard for LTE should be, leads to VOIP becoming the de-facto standard.  In fact, does Verizon truly realize their soon to be launched LTE network could hasten this, especially given how invested in Google’s Android operating system they’ve become? 

If Google rolls VOIP capability into Google Voice, as some have predicted they will, and this is part of the “real” Android operating system, and the tech media covers this like I think they will, such that it eventually bleeds into the mainstream media……..and one thing leads to another and Apple does some sort of iChatesque VOIP solution on the next iPhone (or even better the mythical Apple tablet), then does VOIP become a true voice calling alternative as soon as the cellular data networks are ready? (everyone is looking at you unfairly or not AT&T)

Verizon has stated it plans to implement LTE in up to 30 US markets in 2010 (as close to all at once as possible).  But, CDMA would almost certainly be required for voice calls on any Verizon LTE capable handset in the next year or two at least, and that makes me wonder if popular tech savvy and understanding of how to best leverage broadband everywhere to our advantage might outpace the technical transition to whatever the LTE voice standard(s) become?  If my crazy dreams in the previous paragraph come to fruition…..maybe?

This is a pivotal era in which we live, and we desperately need a savvy, forward thinking, aggressive leader who has the power to help consumers even the playing field among the cell carriers – in a permanent way.  And he might find himself in the middle of a maelstrom of technical, political, and cultural variables that if mixed and matched at just the right moments……..walls do come down sometimes you know!?  


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