So why did they make the Nexus One without an AT&T 3G frequency radio???

Here I was, happy as a clam that Google was coming out with a no-contract, no-network-locked alternative to the iPhone.

And then I find out it doesn’t support the AT&T 3G network frequency. Aargh! I don’t want to believe they were this dumb to make such a glaring omission

What gives?

Technical feasibility of putting so many radio transmitters in the device?

Do you need an FCC license to produce equipment with radio receivers/transmitters on various frequencies? Was FCC approval refused for the AT&T frequency?

Did Google’s original telecom partner, T-Mobile, throw a hissy fit and either coaxed them not to ship with an AT&T capable radio, or did the Google/T-Mobile contract allow T-Mobile to limit Google’s ability to access AT&T’s network?

Did AT&T threaten Google?
Do we have any factual (or sensical) musings on why Google seemingly shot themselves in the foot here?

Um, it’s the obvious. Apple basically owns AT&T’s shit and either explicitly or implicitly made it clear that AT&T should not play ball with Google.

Google needs permission from the carrier to access their network. AT&T didn’t grant it, do that math.

Are you sure Google needs permission (except from the fcc) to build a device with a radio turned to a certain frequency on it? I’m not

You clearly have not been paying attention.

  1. Apple and AT&T have been squabling over the iPhone and it’s effect on the less-than-desirably-engineered AT&T network.
  2. AT&T sells an awful lot of other phones.
  3. The exclusivity agreement over the iPhone ends later this year and I believe that both parties are happy about that.

In the end, probably less “Apple is telling AT&T not to do this” than “AT&T Management had a stroke at the idea of another popular smart phone on their overtaxed network.” Although as far as that goes, I don’t believe either one is true.

Again, can we get some factual sources for the notion that you can’t put a radio transmitter/receiver tuned to a specific frequency without the approval of the wireless carrier?

It has nothing to do with the transmitter. They can put a transmitter into whatever they want and Google is supposedly going to be releasing Nexus One phones with At&T 3G access and CDMA access in the future. The issue is with the AT&T network allowing access.

AT&T has fought strenuously to criminalize unlocking of GSM phones so there’s little reason to imagine that they’d willingly cooperate with Google who’s just selling unlocked phones outright.

Long story short, Google lied. They have been spinning this phone as an “open” platform but then they didn’t put transmitters for multiple networks into their phones. Why did they lie? Partly because they can sell more phones this way, just like Motorola and HTC and Samsung, and partly because the wireless carriers weren’t going to allow them to capitalize on the benefit of selling unlocked phones by supporting it.

If it’s merely about AT&T allowing access, then Google would have been best to throw the 50-cent extra radio transmitter (or whatever it costs) in and let AT&Ts own customers bitch that they weren’t allowed to surf the web on their Nexus. Like the old days of cable modems - they tried to get you to pay for multiple computers connected to their broadband connection, but that fizzled out right quick.

Also, I don’t think your claims that AT&T won’t allow access is slightly off. In very important ways, AT&T doesn’t give a crap if someone winds up accessing their network on equipment that they didn’t buy directly from AT&T. I mean i’m pretty sure I can buy a used iphone or other smartphone from ebay and sign up for AT&T’s data plan, and they’ll be pleased as punch that i’m paying them. That I didn’t give them a bit of a kicker in the form of an overpriced phone is irrelevant at this point.

But I’m still not sure that they have this magical power to “not support” phones on their data network. If you can elaborate a bit on this from a technical standpoint, i’d appreciate it.

There seems to be some misinformation in this thread. AT&T cannot and does not block access to their network from any set of devices. As long as you have a valid AT&T SIM card, you can put it into any GSM device, purchased from anywhere in the world that supports their network frequency, to access their network. Networks can block access based on the IMEI number of a device, but they do that only in extreme cases.

I do not have any factual information on the reasons Google chose to omit the AT&T network frequencies from the Nexus One, but my guess would be that it was a business decision based on economics.

So what’s the economic calculus, though? What’s the cost of making it AT&T 3G capable other than a few more dollars to put the radio in?

Possibly someone at HTC (the actual maker of the object in question) saying to Google: if you insist on a device that’s really all-band “universal”, you’re not going to have it in time for launch at CES 2010. The band used by ATT for 3G in North America, is it a commonly used one elsewhere?

Back in late '08 ATT was promoting the Blackberry Bold on 3G at the same time as the iPhone so it’s unlikely to be something tied in to Apple,

Note that the Nexus One does work on AT&T (voice and EDGE data), it just doesn’t support AT&T 3G. There is no information from Google answering why they decided to do this.

In order for the Nexus One to support the AT&T 3G network, it would need a radio transceiver and a 3G power amplifier, both of which need to support the 850MHz/1900MHz frequencies used by AT&T.

The Nexus One has the Qualcomm RTR6285 RF chip, which does support the AT&T 3G frequencies, but it does not have the 3G power amplifier required (in conjunction with the RF chip) to work on these frequencies. Reportedly, the Nexus One already has three 3G power amplifiers for various frequencies.

One design consideration is the size of the required chip. See Step 11 here to understand the size required to add another power amplifier:

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Nexus-One/1654/2

By economic decision, I meant their expected return from sales across all markets. They probably just didn’t see the AT&T 3G market as one to focus their efforts on. If, due to design limitations, they had to choose 3 out of 4 power amplifiers to include in the phone, and saw the AT&T 3G market as their lowest priority, then, as a business decision, it makes sense to them to not include it. There are also marketing implications that go with such a decision, such as users not complaining about sucky coverage on the network.

It’s not that they “don’t support” phones, it’s just that they can pick and choose who they decide to sign service contracts with. They lease the bandwidth from he FCC and in doing so have the right to use it as they see fit.

I’m not sure what AT&Ts motive for being vehemently opposed to unlocked phones is but it’s well documented. Theoretically any new user, be that a new contract iPhone buyer, a used iPhone buyer with a month-to-month contract or a unlocked GSM phone buyer with a pay as you go contract is all extra coin in AT&T’s pcokets. But, for whatever reason AT&T has decided that those folks with unlocked phones are undesirable. I theorize that it just their fear of a slippery slope of manufacturers making real unlocked phones at cheap prices undermining their hold on consumers with binding contracts and forcing them to actually compete in a free open market, but that’s neither here or there.

So, Google claimed it was going to make an unlocked Nexus One for the masses. For whatever reason they hoodwinked everyone on that promise by making a phone that was technically “unlocked” but wasn’t actually available for use on all frequencies.

The only differences between the frequencies supported by the Nexus One and iPhone are the UTMS bands, iPhone on 1/2/5 (2100/1900/850 MHz) and Nexus on 1/4/8 (2100/1700/900 MHz). Presumably it’d be trivial to add support for the other bands, and I’m not sure which carriers operate on which bands. There are likely issues when roaming internationally that could cause conflicts which motivated Google to choose the frequencies they did.

So, supposing that Google had to make several choices in which frequencies to support and which technologies to support taking into consideration carriers on many continents with different allocated bandwidths you have to step back and decide which carriers are liable to be the highest priority.

AT&T and Apple who are enemies and might not play ball, or T-Mobile and the European/Asian GSM carriers who have big markets and want to play ball. AT&T getting left out in the cold with it’s professed disdain for unlocked phones and Apple and Google’s open war makes sense.

Now, there are probably lots of technical details that could supersede business and politics and I don’t pretend to understand them all, but there’s essentially no doubt that Google could have made this phone for AT&T. Since AT&T is in bed with their enemy they chose not to.

The issue is why Google decided to use language to let people believe otherwise.

GSM 850 900 1800 1900

Was trying to edit and ran out of time.

Ignore that second paragraph. Apparently AT&T has flip flopped that position and started providing phone free SIMs. Not sure how I missed that sea change.

Why do you say this? The phone is not locked. A locked phone has a specific meaning. The fact that it does not support every carrier network does not mean it is locked. Is a GSM phone locked because it does not support CDMA? Should we all be outraged that the Nexus One doesn’t work on Sprint’s network?

Can you explain why it is trivial? Can you give an example of a phone that supports both 3G frequencies? Developing antennas in general is difficult engineering and developing antennas that work well in both ranges (without interfering with each other) is even more so. This is an interesting article about Motorola developing a radio module that works with both sets of 3G frequencies.

Google and HTC could build a model that works on AT&T’s network. They’ll have to do that when they release the VZW CDMA version. But these would be three different hardware models – not a single one.

I think from Google’s perspective, releasing unlocked hardware models for all networks would be ideal. However, the non-AT&T carriers are giving Google a lot more leverage than they normally give device manufacturers. The reason seems obvious – these carriers want something to compete with AT&T’s iPhone. In exchange Google and HTC are not releasing a hardware model that works on AT&T’s network.

Sure there a business machinations going on here, but Google has not be misleading about what the Nexus One supports. Just look at the order page here. There’s not much text on the page and the Will this phone work with my SIM? is pretty explicit.

I don’t think anyone should be outraged. I understand that it’s not locked, but Google went to great pains to make it clear that this phone would be a “new way of doing things” and would upend the cell phone structure as it is today. Your average user doesn’t know what “locked” means in a specific sense. The OP made the mistake of believing that it would be a “no-contract, no-network-locked alternative” and Google allowed and propagated this belief. The gadget blogs repeated it ad nauseum. In reality this phone is exactly like every other phone out there, it’s basically “locked” into one GSM network by the hardware if you have any hopes of utilizing it’s capabilities. The only difference is that they did away with the software lock, which without the proper radio frequency is meaningless.

I saw this in the other thread and it is an interesting development. I’ve never read anything that articulated any complexities with designing antennas for these two particular frequencies. It was presumed that the contract locked model cell phone companies have been using simply made it pointless to include multiple antennas on a relatively new and expensive 3G tech. Honestly the Motorola product doesn’t necessarily contradict that, it just means that they are just now trying to build it. Perhaps the only previous limitation was a business one not a technical one. But really I don’t know. I made the assumption that since it’s largely trivial to make a quad-band 2G device, I’m not sure what technical limitation would crop up for 3G that’s different.

I’m not sure we disagree on any of this. The point is that Google and HTC didn’t want to be on AT&T and AT&T probably wasn’t all that eager to court them.

In their official press releases no, they couldn’t. But in the rumor mongering and unofficial “leaks” pre-release and the vocabulary in their press events made this out to be something truly carrier agnostic. All the bloggers and geeks were disappointed when the official specs came out.