The Carrier Is The Cellular Dog

by Dana Blankenhorn | posted on 26 November 2004

The phones have always been the tail in the mobile phone game. The carriers are the dog.

Dana Blankenhorn

If carriers don't let your phone on their network, you don't have a business. I had a tail-less dog as a kid so I know what I'm talking about concerning dogs and tails.

Already, in the U.S., I've heard reports of carriers demanding crippled features on phones -- cameras whose pictures can only be moved off the phone on the carrier's expensive network.

So it was inevitable that the carriers would take the last piece of the tail's independence away - the branding.

Vodafone has been the leader in this, demanding its own brand on phone, not manufacturers', as part of its Vodafone Live service. And you should also note here that Vodafone owns about 45% of Verizon Wireless in the U.S.

The Feature had a piece on this recently, focusing on issues of customization. And the Business Week story, linked to above, is all about how this new aggressiveness on the part of Vodafone has benefitted Asian suppliers, who were more willing to deal.

But there's something more to it than that. It's about control.

If a carrier determines what devices live in its network, and what can be done with data on its network, and even what data lives on its network, can it ever sell "Internet" service? Something tells me the Internet needs to protect its trademark before it's stolen by private networks.

One more point. If the carrier controls everything, and falls down on the job (such as customer service) customers have no recourse. And carriers have been falling down on training, on upgrades, on simple customer satisfaction. Why not let in third parties then?

Dana Blankenhorn runs an Open Source blog for ZDNet and publishes his own free email newsletter from which this op-ed piece is taken, at A-Clue.com

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