AT&T Could Open US Monopoly On Google Nexus One

Blogs say T-Mobile’s US exclusive on Google Nexus One contracts could open up, as AT&T seems to get approval to sell the device

According to gadget blogs, the Google’s Nexus One smartphone could soon be available on AT&T’s 3G network, giving a choice for potential Google customers, and boosting the Google device’s claims to be an iPhone substitute.

Blogs Brighthand and Engadget have found evidence that the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a device – which appears to be Google’s Nexus One – for use on AT&T’s 3G network.

Google began selling the Nexus One in January from its Webstore unlocked and running on GSM networks, for $529 (£332), or at $179 (£112) for a two-year contract with T-Mobile US.

Nexus One on AT&T’s network would be good news for consumers considering buying the phone who don’t want to join T-Mobile’s network or can’t switch to the carrier without incurring an early termination fee from their current carriers.

Brighthand and Engadget found evidence on the FCC’s Web site of a new HTC-made device with the FCC ID number of NM899110, only one digit off from the Nexus One, whose FCC ID is NM899100. See the identification codes on the Nexus One and an unknown device on Engadget here.

The unknown device supports 3G on WCDMA Bands I, II, and V, meaning that it’ll work on AT&T’s network and most of Europe, Engadget reported. Brighthand, which noted the specs were yanked from the FCC’s Web site after the word got out, echoed Engadget’s report, noting:

“The FCC filing is for an unknown HTC device with support for AT&T’s 3G network, not the version of 3G used in Europe… Taken together, these add up to a device very, very similar to the Nexus One, but with full support for AT&T’s voice and data service.”

There has been no concrete word on whether the Nexus One or any member of the alleged family of Nexus devices Google plans on selling through its retail Web site would be available on AT&T, which hasn’t supported the Android platform to date.

AT&T is the sole US carrier of the iPhone, which has shipped millions of units to date. The Nexus One is positioned as an alternative to the iPhone and is the flagship device for Google’s march on the mobile Web. With Apple and Google increasingly at odds, AT&T is expected to side with Apple when push comes to shove, however.

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Google said it would launch the Nexus One with service from No. 1 US wireless carrier Verizon Wireless, as well as Europe’s Vodafone, this spring. Until then, it’s available on T-Mobile’s network, whose US network size ranks fourth behind Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

The Nexus One could use the additional carrier support. Those who bought the device with T-Mobile service are suffering from spotty 3G service or even prolonged outages and complaints have been overwhelming Google’s Nexus One support forum since the phone launched – though a fix is reportedly in the pipeline.

When the T-Mobile 3G service works (instead of being out or oscillating between 3G and Edge), the Nexus One is pleasant to use. But the frequent complaints about poor service will continue to hinder Nexus One sales.

When the smartphone is supported by additional carriers, sales are expected to pick up; the iPhone is a fine smartphone, but not everyone wants to buy Apple.

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