T-Mobile Lawsuit Questions the Fairness of Phone Locking, Early Termination Fees

Illustration for article titled T-Mobile Lawsuit Questions the Fairness of Phone Locking, Early Termination Fees

Against T-Mobile's formal protests, the California Supreme Court cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit that seeks to stop the carrier from collecting early service termination fees of $200. According to Wired:

The plaintiffs also seek an order requiring T-Mobile to disclose the existence and effect of the software locks it places on the phones it sells, and to offer to unlock the handsets so consumers can switch to a different carrier without buying a new phone.

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Finally, someone is making real headway in finding out whether these restrictions are legal or fair. We've lived with them for so long, they seem like a permanent reality, but this raises the prospect of free and unfettered mobile-phone choice—at least among four giant, greedy corporations. [Wired]

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DISCUSSION

@Wintursoul: A brief history of the mobile phone and wireless standards:

1947- ATT proposes that the FCC allocate a large number of radio-spectrum frequencies so that widespread mobile telephone service would become feasible. The FCC decided to limit the amount of frequencies available in 1947, making only twenty-three simultaneous phone conversations possible in the same service area

1968- FCC reconsiders, stating "if the technology to build a better mobile service works, we will increase the frequencies allocation, freeing the airwaves for more mobile phones." AT&T and Bell Labs propose a cellular system to the FCC of many small, low-powered, broadcast towers, each covering a 'cell' a few miles in radius

1973- FIRST CALL PLACED-Dr Martin Cooper, general manager for the systems division at Motorola, (considered the inventor of the first modern portable handset) makes the first call on a portable cell phone in April 1973 to his rival, Joel Engel, Bell Labs head of research

1979 - First commercial cellular telephone system begins operation in Tokyo.

1982 - FCC finally authorizes commercial cellular service for the USA.

1983 - Ameritech makes the first American commercial analog cellular service or AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) available in Chicago.

Standards:

AMPS (Analog Service): Modulated radio signals carrying information such as voice or data. Similar to FM radio.

TDMA - (Time Division Multiple Access) also called Digital AMPS or D-AMPS. Released in 1994, TDMA uses the frequency bands available to the wireless network and divides them into time slots with each phone user having access to one time slot at regular intervals. TDMA, no longer in broad use, existed in North America at both the 800 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. Major US carriers using TDMA were AT&T Wireless Services, Bell South and Southwestern Bell.

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) is based on a form of spread spectrum technology that separates voice signals by assigning them digital codes within the same broad spectrum. CDMA type technology dates back to the 1940s, when spread spectrum technology was used in military communications systems because it was resistant to interference from enemy signals. The Qualcomm corporation began developing a CDMA wireless system in the late 1980s that was accepted as a standard in 1993 and went into operation by 1996. CDMA also exists at both the 800 MHz and 1900 MHz bands.

Today, CDMA is the standard of Verizon and Sprint. Also used in Korea, Japan

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) is based on a improved version of TDMA technology. In 1982, the Conference of European Posts and Telecommunications (CEPT) began the process of creating a digital cellular standard that would allow users to roam from country to country in Europe. By 1987, the GSM standard was created based on a hybrid of FDMA (analog) and TDMA (digital) technologies. GSM engineers decided to use wider 200 kHz channels instead of the 30 khz channels that TDMA used, and instead of having only 3 slots like TDMA, GSM channels had 8 slots. This allowed for fast bit rates and more natural-sounding voice-compression algorithms. GSM was the first of the three technologies to provide data services such as email, fax, internet browsing, and intranet/LAN wireless access.

Today, GSM is the standard of ATT and T-Mobile as well as Europe and a lot of Asia