By The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain – AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson on Tuesday expressed frustration with the way applications are sold to smart phone users, saying customers should be able to buy an application once and have it work across many different devices.

AT&T Inc. was until last week the sole U.S. carrier for the iPhone, which sells apps that run only on Apple devices. Yet in a keynote speech at the world’s largest mobile-phone trade show in Barcelona, Stephenson said the industry needs to support technologies that allow applications to run on devices from different manufacturers.

“You purchase an app for one operating system, and if you want it on another device or platform, you have to buy it again,” Stephenson said. “That’s not how our customers expect to experience this environment.”

Stephenson highlighted a new standard for Web software, HTML 5, which will allow applications to run on different devices. He also highlighted the Wholesale Applications Community, which is an “app store” set up by carriers as a counterweight to app stores run by Silicon Valley heavyweights Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

The Wholesale Applications Community, or WAC, announced its commercial launch Monday. From the point of view of software developers, it acts as one app store. The apps are then sold by a variety of different phone companies around the world, in stores that carry their own brands.

There are as yet few phones that support WAC applications, but LG Electronics Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Ericsson, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. have committed to making such phones.

The four biggest U.S. wireless carriers – AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA – are all members of WAC. Verizon Wireless started selling the iPhone in the U.S. last week.

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