WSJ: Carriers are Soviet Ministries

Noted technology columnist Walt Mossberg wrote a scathing indictment of the four major U.S. wireless carriers in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Similar to what happened with landlines in the 60’s and 70’s, carriers force you to use only certain handsets, and they lock them so that you can’t take your phone from one carrier to the next, Mossberg wrote. And since the government hasn’t yet intervened, the way it eventually did in the 70’s with landlines, there are even two completely incompatible networks: Sprint and Verizon, which use one type called CDMA, and AT&T and T-Mobile, which use another type called GSM. Phones on one don’t work on the other.

The same carriers also prevent folks from installing whatever software they want on the phones, and force phone vendors to redesign perfectly good models to advertise the carrier’s services, even when the latter are inferior to what the phone manufacturers originally included with the phone.

“That’s why I refer to the big cellphone carriers as the ‘Soviet ministries,’ Mossberg said. “Like the old bureaucracies of communism, they sit athwart the market, breaking the link between the producers of goods and services and the people who use them.”

The article is a good summary of just about everything that is wrong with the U.S. wireless industry today.

Free My Phone [WSJ]