The Federal Communications Commission this week will begin its examination of mobile phone industry practices, including the relationships between wireless carriers and their subsidies - and sales restrictions - of mobile handsets. At its monthly meeting on Thursday, August 27, the FCC is expected to launch its formal inquiry and will pass its findings to Congress, which has been saber-rattling about the deals between wireless carriers and electronics-makers. Although it's hard to predict what actions the FCC or Congress may take as a result of the investigation, the results could overhaul the structure of the U.S. handset market. While the inquiry is apparently fueled by the exclusive iPhone pact between AT&T Wireless and Apple, several other issues are expected to emerge. The Commission is interested in mobile pricing and billing since the handset subsidy translates into the U.S. having among the world's highest rates for mobile service.
Regulators indicate they want to find out if the current structure is limiting competition and reducing consumer choice. Depending on the eventual outcome of this inquiry, mobile equipment dealers could face restructured relationships with all segments of the expanding wireless market, including changes in the common two-year contract commitments.
You can watch a live stream of the FCC session at 10 am ET on Thursday, August 27 via the FCC's Audio/Video Events web page: www.fcc.gov/realaudio.