Carriers holding back due to security issues

Chris Caceres · July 16, 2009 · Short URL:

While app developers are seeking more openness, carriers emphasize control over networks

 Back in the days before the Smartphone, an emergency would occur and dialing 911 was no sweat.  You pick up the phone, listen for that dialtone, and dial three numbers.

Fast forward to today...

Phones are no longer devices simply built to focus on voice, and carriers are quite aware of this as they struggle to keep up.  It's a battle out there in the mobile ecosystem - while carriers are struggling to maintain with the need for subscribers using data, control and security issues are holding developers back from enriching our mobile experience. 

The reality is, people's digital lives are becoming mobile, and with that comes the need for data and innovation.  Are carriers keeping up with this shift in how a phone is used today?

“I don’t think you can ever say yes to this question, we all need to work very hard,” was the honest answer delivered by Peter Barry of Vodafone, from the MobileBeat 2009 Conference in San Francisco, Ca.  And day to day, we experience these limitations, app developers go through long approval processes on the App store, phones support only certain video codecs, VoIP over 3G networks is yet to be seen – the list goes on.

But it’s not simply about allowing this data a truly open pipe where developers can build and sell whatever they desire.  The ultimate issue here is control.

"It's about protecting the network," explained Russ McGuire from Sprint.  "We don't want the Open-ness of the platform to Open the user to risk."  Which indeed does make sense.  If cellular networks were truly open so developers could do whatever they wanted on them, users would see viruses, invasions of privacy, and ultimately, the basic notion of having the mobile device stop functioning as what it was originally intended to be - a phone.

Interestingly, almost the entire panel, which included representatives from Vodaphone, Motorola, Sprint and even Pandora, an app developer, agreed on security issues.

“First and foremost, a phone is a voice-phone,” believes Motorola.  The company representative alluded to the old fashioned use of a phone, where you simply picked up the wired device and listened for a dial-tone.

"But what if a user couldn't dial 911 in an emergency scenario," basically because the phone stopped functioning like we've seen in PC's, leading to Motorola's ultimate ideal, "the phone needs to function perfectly without a reset." 

I know I've had to reboot my iPhone plenty of times to make a call, never thought of this as being a risk to my life though.

In the end it comes down to this undeniable need for data, McGuire from Sprint explained, "control over the business model is the hardest one for carriers to work through.  Reality is there is a new model, it's not the same as the old model.  It's there for a reason - you don’t want all of us to go out of business."

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