Canonical has formed an advisory group of international wireless carriers – including big names like Deutsche Telekom and Korea Telecom, but excluding all of the big four US networks.

Members of the seven-strong Carrier Advisory Group will receive advance notification of Ubuntu's mobile development, as well as the inside track on news about OEM support. Importantly, the opportunity to be a launch partner for the commercial release of mobile Ubuntu will also be limited to  CAG members.

Signed up so far are  Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Korea Telecom, Telecom Italia, LG UPlus, Portugal Telecom and Spain's SK Telecom. Invitations to join are "extended to any national or multinational carrier" with an interest, Canonical added, presumably leaving the door open to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. 

Chairman David Wood, a mobile industry veteran and former board member at the Open Mobile Alliance, said in a statement that the CAG offers the ability to get in on the ground floor of a new mobile OS.

"The mobile industry remains on the lookout for an independent platform that enables innovation and differentiation," he said. "The Carrier Advisory Group will have ample opportunity to influence the Ubuntu roadmap, and take full advantage of the potential in this emerging platform."

The news that Ubuntu's mobile efforts have attracted major carrier attention is positive, but the company has yet to find an OEM partner a critical step on the road to getting Ubuntu-powered devices into consumers' hands. An Australian IT consultancy raised eyebrows in March when it pushed pre-orders for "the first Ubuntu-powered tablet" built by an unnamed factory in China, but Canonical was quick to disclaim any connection with the questionable offer.

Canonical has said that Ubuntu smartphones and tablets should hit the market in early 2014.

Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.