AT&T Mobility CEO: "you can use any handset on our network you want." Hmm, let's look a little closer at that

AT&T Mobility CEO: "you can use any handset on our network you want." Hmm, let's look a little closer at that

Summary: As of right this minute, AT&T Mobilitysubscribers will be able to use any wireless phone or device from any manufacturer. Or can they?


As of right this minute, AT&T Mobilityattmobilitylogo.gifsubscribers will be able to use any wireless phone or device from any manufacturer.


Or can they?


A de facto flavor of this policy has existed for years, but has not been promoted by AT&T until now. AT&T Mobility store salespeople are now being encouraged to mention this.


"You can use any handset on our network you want," Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless business," tells USAToday's Leslie Cauley. "We don't prohibit it, or even police it."


What's kind of confusing in Leslie's article is whether or not this changes the game in terms of whether or not you will still have to sign a contract to use such gear over AT&T Mobility's network. In the first paragraph of her piece, Leslie uses the phrase, "don't have to sign a contract. " But later in her piece, she writes:

Despite its bear hug of "open" standards, one AT&T device, for now, will remain tightly closed: the Apple iPhone.

AT&T has a deal with Apple to be the exclusive U.S. distributor for the next five years. To get the device, consumers must sign a two-year contract.

AT&T has no plans to change that arrangement, de la Vega says. "The iPhone is a very special, innovative case."


Leslie sounds confused. She might be associating and contradicting iPhone's "closed" nature with that of other devices- AT&T sanctioned or no.

Go ahead and read her article again. Maybe I am caffeine-defiient this a.m. but the way Leslie articulates these points, it makes it sound that AT&T Mobility is putting the kibash on all contracts but for iPhone. Ain't gonna happen, people.

But I think what Leslie really meant to write is that if you use a non AT&T Mobility device on your existing AT&T Mobility extension, then you won't have to sign a contract to do so.

Such "openness" utterances on the part of AT&T Mobility bring out the finely honed moo goo detector of Engadget's top editor, Ryan Block:

Nothing has changed between yesterday and today, and, as de la Vega told us a couple of weeks ago, AT&T customers can continue expect the status quo from the nation's largest carrier in terms of their level of openness and flexibility. Granted, it's one thing for Verizon to say they're going wide open (especially being ridiculously closed CDMA carrier they are), but it's quite another for AT&T to lay claims as though it's somehow more open than any other carrier in the world when that argument comes as an extension of its core network technology.


Yes, you can take your AT&T SIM, put it in an unlocked device, and run it on their network without much hassle -- but that doesn't make AT&T any more "open" than the final-say testing facility Verizon intends to use in "openly" making approvals (and disapprovals) of devices and software.

Good people can debate this issue. However I agree with Leslie that AT&T Mobility's apparently new willingness to talk openness is being driven at least in part by Google's recently announced plans to work with wireless companies such as Sprint in order to let customers develop an operating system that would enable consumers to use any app on their mobile.


I find it hard to argue against the notion that Verizon Wireless' new move toward openness obviously has influenced AT&Ts stated direction toward openness as well.

Topics: Mobility, Networking, AT&T

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  • Nix contracts on BYOD; Dont count on it

    I am willing to place bets that there still is going to be a "minimum service commitment" of 1 year, especially if you opt to go "post-paid" vice their go-phone pre-paid. AT&T isnt gonna just let you ride their network without a contract (even though they have no subscriber subsidy)..that would make you the most dangerous type of cellular phone customer. They would be out of their MIND! (LOL)

    Granted, if AT&T would nix their minimum service requirement (BYOD vs new AT&T subsidized phone)for post paid; id be all about it and would encourage the other mobile operators to take similar steps before big G steps in and opens them up themselves (and we all know how well that would turn out).
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot

    [b]?You can use any handset on our network you want...?[/b]

    ANY cell phone? Ok.. I'd like to see how they're going to get a Sprint, Verizon or other CDMA handset working on AT&T's network - without having the guts ripped out and replaced with GSM hardware.

    Damn CEOs anyhow and their lack of technical know-how. Why can't they have someone with just an OUNCE of technical comprehension proofread their speeches BEFORE the CEO opens his mouth and inserts foot.

    Undoubtedly, the comment should have read more like:
    ?You can use any [i]GSM[sic][/i] handset on our network you want...? which actually makes sense.
    • I think that's what he meant

  • Told ya so

    I said that the cellco's would open their networks and that once one of them did it, they rest would follow.

    Yes, we'll have to wait and see how this plays out but at least there are new incentives for phone manufacturers to create new (GSM/CDMA) devices and they'll be able to sell directly to the consumer. OF course, it now means that they'll have to provide support for their products.