The Federal Communications Commission formally voted yesterday to open a wide-ranging inquiry into the state of the wireless industry and examine how to best foster innovation and investment.

In its first meeting with all five members of the Commission under the new administration, the FCC voted unanimously to open the inquiries. Last week, the FCC signaled its intentions by putting the items on its agenda.

CTIA and carriers have argued that the U.S. industry is highly competitive, noting the number of wireless service providers available in certain markets and a variety of devices available to consumers. But the FCC has been stepping up its scrutiny in recent months, with handset exclusivity agreements among the hot topics.

In a statement today, CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent ticked off a long list of wireless industry accomplishments: almost 100,000 applications in app stores, new smartphones, consumer access to high-speed networks and the lowest price per minute of the 26 countries tracked by Merrill Lynch. “The wireless ecosystem – from carriers, to handset manufacturers, to network providers, to operating system providers, to application developers – is evolving before our eyes, and this is not the same market that it was even three years ago. In this industry, innovation is everywhere,” he said.

The FCC’s inquiries are expected to take months.

Carriers already are starting to change their tunes in some areas. Verizon Wireless agreed to limit handset exclusivity deals to six months so that smaller carriers can gain access to the newer and snazzier handsets, and AT&T has said it would review its policy regarding VoIP applications running on its network.

More Broadband Direct 08/28/09:
•  Appeals Court kills cable caps
•  Comcast wraps up D3 rollout in Chicago footprint
•  Evolution Digital, Conax score CableCard qualification
•  DirecTV, TBS, TNT to put shows online
•  Comcast adds Universal Caller ID to Bay area
•  FCC votes for wireless probe
•  Skype: FCC inquiry is good
•  NCTA hires FCC veteran
•  Harmonic to demo three-screen technologies at IBC