Cellular Freedom, Shine On Me

Freedom from your cellular service shackles is coming…slowly. Unlocked phones are becoming more readily available, free calling over a phone's Wi-Fi connection is becoming more commonplace, and forthcoming legislation may also open up the airwaves. Eventually, the result will be that consumers (that's us!) will have the freedom to choose any phone they like and not be limited to a specific carrier or service.

First, Dell began quietly selling unlocked phones on its Web site. Unlocked phones can be used on several different carriers. For a brief explanation and an example of a solidly designed unlocked phone, see Freedom is an Unlocked Phone.

Second, VoIP programs like Skype, which allow people to make free or very inexpensive calls around the world, are being adapted for more cell phones that include the ability to connect to the Web using a Wi-Fi connection. Several so-called smart phones like the Treo can already do this, and now people are working on a way to let the i "don't ever mention that thing again in my presence" Phone from Apple to work with Skype as well.

Lastly, the head of the FCC, Kevin Martin, recently noted that the frequencies currently used for analog television transmission (in the 700 MHz range) may be used for wireless cell calling in the future–by carriers that agree not to lock people into using specific phones. Those airwaves are slated to be auctioned next year, and it could mean that the next time you choose a service it may allow you to use any wireless phone with any software you like. 

Let a thousand iPhone clones bloom. Now wouldn't that be nice?


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About jquain

Technology reporter, writer, and television correspondent, JQ has been covering the computer, communications, and consumer electronics industries for more than 25 years.A contributor to The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, U.S. News & World Report and many other publications, JQ appears on CBS News television program Up to the Minute and on Fox Business.
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