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US carrier in shock 'wireless pipes make money' claim

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OpenMobileSummit A US wireless carrier has admitted that it can make a very good living as a wireless carrier.

This week, at a mobile-centric get-together in downtown San Francisco, T-Mobile USA chief technology officer Cole Brodman was asked how the company planned to avoid becoming nothing more than a - gasp! - network service provider in an increasingly-open mobile world order. And he responded matter-of-factly.

"It's pretty good being a network service provider," he said. "The bit pipe is pretty good business, and it is in a lot of industries. Look at the cable industry, look at the wireless industry, where there are just access businesses. With an access business, if you thrive and scale your infrastructure, it can be a very good margin business."

Whereas AT&T and Verizon fought the open revolution tooth-and-nail - and continue to fight it - T-Mobile has hitched its wireless wagon to a certain online advertising giant that built an open-source mobile OS called Android. The country's third largest wireless carrier was the first to introduce a Googlephone, and it's about as Googly as a carrier can get.

"[We're also] a platform for other people," Brodman said. "We provide location and contextual information, billing information, network APIs, unique services that we expose to outside developers so they can make them better. We probably won't be able to without outside innovation, so how do we turn that around to say: 'Can you make these services better for us?' And we can share, somehow, the revenue somewhere down the line."

Brodman says that in the fourth quarter, T-Mobile expects smartphones to account for 40 per cent of all its handsets sales. That includes BlackBerries as well as Android phones, but clearly, the carrier has put its future in the hands of Mountain View.

Earlier in the day, Brodman said that the carrier would soon launch its own "channel" on the Android Marketplace - Google's answer to the iPhone App Store - and it has said in the past that unlike, say, Verizon, the country's largest wireless carrier, it has no intention of launching its own app store. ®

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