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AT&T is an open network and has been

Deal with Apple, however, still requires a two-year contract

December 6, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - AT&T Inc. said today that its GSM-based wireless network in the U.S. is essentially open to any GSM device and any software application, and has been for several years.

"We've not gone out of our way to tout the fact that we have this, and very few people have taken advantage of it," spokesman Mark Siegel said in a telephone interview.

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. CEO Ralph de la Vega told USA Today in an interview yesterday that users can "use any handset on our network you want ... we don't prohibit or it or even police it."

Siegel clarified today that the phone must work over GSM, but otherwise confirmed de la Vega's comments. Only the iPhone will remain closed, Siegel said, to comply with a multiyear exclusivity agreement with Apple Inc. IPhone users must sign a two-year contract.

The USA Today story made it seem that AT&T had just recently made the move to open access, but Siegel said AT&T has "always allowed people who have unlocked GSM devices that operate on U.S. radio frequencies" to use AT&T's network.

"We think we are the most open company in the industry," Siegel added.

A user would take advantage of the AT&T network by buying a SIM card for an unlocked phone for $25 and then prepaying or postpaying for service, without the need for a contract, Siegel said. For $39.99 a month, a person could postpay, subject to credit approval, he added.

Siegel denied that the carrier had kept quiet about its open policy. He also said AT&T did not open access to its network in recent days in response to steps by Google Inc. and more than 30 other companies to create the Open Handset Alliance and the Android wireless software platform. Nor did the announcement by Verizon Wireless to support any device and any application have any bearing, he said.

"We've had this ability for several years," he said.

AT&T also has filed to bid in the 700-MHz auction sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission that will be held next month, but Siegel said he could not give any details. A portion of that spectrum in the auction is reserved for bidders who will create an open network.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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