Spectrum News from the US

A couple of days ago we had big news about Canadian wireless spectrum – today, the news is from South of the border in the US. Google has long been rumoured to have been preparing to enter the auction, and today we learn that Google [has confirmed their] Spectrum Bid. The rumour mill will now turn to wild speculation about Google’s intentions for wireless spectrum should they succeed in winning at auction.

Big Wireless News from Industry Canada

Industry Canada divulged plans for the upcoming auction of additional wireless spectrum: Government Opts for More Competition in the Wireless Sector. The good news is that they have set aside a good proportion of the new spectrum to new entrants into the Canadian market, as well as mandating things like shared tower space (for antennas). Hopefully this will put some price pressure on the incumbents in the Canadian wireless industry – Rogers, Telus, and Bell.

Update: Thomas Purves has written a post about this at StartUpNorth which lays out some of the implications of this announcement.

Facebook goes (more) mobile

Facebook has announced their platform for mobile devices: Introducing Facebook Platform for Mobile. Developers will have the ability to target content directly to the mobile site and to access Facebook’s SMS platform. This is important for a few reasons, but chief among them is that outside of North America, the mobile internet is a primary means of access for many. In many countries, no mobile literally means drastically reduced access to users.

Walt Mossberg on mobile carriers

Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg has published a piece on the extremely limiting role that US mobile carriers have forced on consumers in the US: Free My Phone.

A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.

As bad as things are in the US, they’re that much worse in Canada, where the same conditions apply – except that here, we get to pay a huge premium for the “privilege”.

iPhone: the SDK is on its way

As I predicted, Apple has announced that it will release a proper SDK in February (2008). From the announcement:

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users.

Certainly many will find fault with this and say it’s too little too late, but both the marketplace and Apple’s recent history seem to prove the naysayers wrong. Now if only Rogers could their act together and offer non-insane data rates (for all wireless data) and then bring the iPhone to Canada.

More fun from Rogers

Alec Saunders reports on his experience with a new Rogers service he tried out – in particular, the basic buying (and returning) experience: Rogers Portable Internet bait and switch. There’s something strange going on when a market leader makes even more elementary mistakes than it did when it built its leadership position. Rogers reminds me of the record companies more than anything else – scrambling frantically in all directions when the road ahead is difficult but clearly marked.

Ooof. Calling Rogers is painful,

especially when it’s to buy a data plan from them. Nadia got a new phone yesterday – a Treo like mine – and for a device like that, a data plan is pretty important. So I called them up – knowing already what the deal on the table was – and signed up for a 3MB plan… for $25. I feel like Rogers is intentionally laughing at me or something. They invented plans in the late 90s for WAP and have kept charging people through the nose ever since.

Thomas Purves has posted

a comparison of mobile data pricing in Canada and elsewhere in the world, and demonstrates that Canadian rates are by far the highest anywhere. The only *possible* light at the end of the tunnel is that if Rogers does bring in the Apple iPhone, then they’re going to have to do something to address the fact that the iPhone is designed for a pretty high level of network access, or so it seems. With any luck – but I’m not holding my breath – this will benefit Canadian customers across the board.

It didn’t even rate

a how-do-you-do during today’s Apple presentation, but the new AirPort Extreme Base Station is probably the thing that I’m most excited about. Put the thing in a closet with my DSL modem, a USB 2 hub, a couple big USB HDs and my printer and suddenly the promise of a truly unwired office is a reality. My desk has no wires except for power, and I don’t have to give up outboard storage or printing to get it. And I can do my daily backup from my couch – I don’t have to go upstairs, plug in to the hub and then start my backup script.

There’s trouble on the horizon

for traditionally inept telcom pirates like Rogers and the rest of them as more and more handset manufacturers start gleefully selling unlocked devices directly to consumers. The latest challenge (added to the speculation that any iPhone offering from Apple will be an unlocked DTC offering) comes from Palm, who are selling their new Treo 680, unlocked, for US$399.

Compare that with the best offer from Rogers: a two-year-old Palm Treo 650 model, which even with a three-year contract comes out at C$399 before the mail-in rebate.

So I can get a better, newer, slimmer phone and not be locked in to an over-long contract.

It’s even worse if you compare apples to apples – Rogers wants C$600 for their out-of-date Treo 650 product with no contract.