Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rural areas shortchanged by smartphone deals

UPDATE, June 18: President Obama's nominee to head the Federal Communications Commission said the FCC will investigate a complaint by rural wireless companies asking for a ban on exclusive phone deals, reports Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal.

"Rural America is suffering from a deficiency of top-tier smartphones, according to a number of small wireless operators and advocacy groups," Sarah Reedy reports for Telephony. The companies and organizations such as Public Knowledge are objecting to exclusivity deals, in which only one carrier is available on a type of mobile device: AT&T on iPhones and Verizon on BlackBerrys, for example.

"The BlackBerry Tour, announced yesterday as an exclusive to Verizon and Sprint, won’t be making any stops in rural America," according to Hu Meena, president of Cellular South., Reedy reports. "As with the Tour, the big four wireless carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – control more than 90 percent of the wireless market with long-term, exclusive agreements with handset manufacturers, he said." (Read more)

"AT&T has gained 2.5 million subscribers since Apple launched the iPhone two years ago, a small number compared with the 270 million cellphone subscribers in the United States," notes Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post. "But such gains have been at the expense of ... small regional network operators, which are losing customers to the biggest carriers – which are now serving seven out of 10 cellphone users." For Kang's coverage of the Senate Commerce Committee hearing today on the issue, click here.

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