Thursday, July 23, 2009

Roam Rage

Since the announcement of the takeover of Alltel by Verizon Wireless, we have been predicting an eventual increase in roaming rates, and a reduction of roaming capabilities. Even more serious is the total loss of GSM roaming in some of those areas. AT&T will maintain some of that GSM coverage, and ATN should as well. But with so much roaming coverage controlled by just AT&T and Verizon, we can’t help but think the coverage of Sprint, T-Mobile and dozens of smaller carriers are in peril. Fortunately, the news is not yet all bad.

Verizon Wireless announced today it will allow “in-market” roaming for 2 years for a few of the newer carriers, such as Cricket and MetroPCS, who are still building their own network. This is in addition to Verizon’s agreement with the FCC to maintain the existing Alltel GSM roaming for 4 years, as well as their existing CDMA agreements. After that, things could get scary.

We worry even more about what these and other forces will do to the viability of every other wireless carrier. While we may not have a Sprint to worry about in 4 years, we will have a handful of smaller carriers who may suffer fatal injuries if the “Big 2” start acting like they’re the only game outside of town. And they may be.

Part of this lies in our own hands. Will we subscribe to Cricket knowing it won’t work without extra charges in Montana? Will we cancel Sprint for not providing free roaming in the cornfields of Nebraska? The day of reckoning is still a few years away. Will it be only the buffalo who will roam then?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe the Sprint/Alltel roaming agreements run until 2016 so, provided Sprint survives that long, Sprint users needn't worry. The wireless landscape is liable to be very different by then anyway and I doubt congress and the FCC would let any one or two single companies monopolize the landscape at the expense of the rural wireless consumer.

Anonymous said...

I fear for my roaming capabilities already, much less two to four years down the road. I'm a T-Mobile user from Louisiana, and roughly half of the state is covered by roaming from Centennial Wireless. Centennial of course was purchased by AT&T, which is to be completed by the end of the year. In this large portion of the state, AT&T and Centennial are the only two GSM providers. AT&T does not allow any roaming here for T-Mobile users. So what happens by the end of the year? Will we be allowed to roam on AT&T's network, or will we lose half of our coverage area in this state? I doubt the FCC has very much sympathy for companies such as T-Mobile and Sprint. If they did, they wouldn't allow AT&T and Verizon to run roughshod over the everyone else like they're doing. Ah well...maybe Verizon wouldn't be so bad anyway. As for AT&T, an 12G technology I Phone couldn't make me switch back to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually more concerned with Sprint's recent decision to remove the "roaming only" option from the software of their newer phones. The weak, unusable, signals in fringe areas that are common with 1900 mhz networks (like Sprint and T-Mobile) were not an issue with the availability of the "roaming only" setting.

Bill Radio said...

Fortunately, there could be new carriers to replace any lost roaming. I talked to Viaero and Commnet who are fully capable of making more roaming coverage available. So the market may provide the solution, just not overnight.

Anonymous said...

I'm having the same problems with Sprint crippling the roam only feature on their phones. I upgraded my phone several months ago, but in reality it was a downgrade because without the option to "force roam" on it, I lost coverage in a lot of places around my home and work where I need it. I'm tired of seeing Sprint's commercials on tv advertising their 3g and 4g networks. How about improving your 2g phone service first?

William said...

In response to the second comment-- I am also a T-Mobile customer from Louisiana who relies heavily on roaming coverage in the central part of the state. The FCC and T-Mobile cannot possibly allow AT&T to shut down roaming access for T-Mobile customers in areas formally serviced by Centennial. There is a large stretch along Interstate 49 that was serviced by Centennial. How in 2009 would a national carrier give up coverage along a major highway without a fight? I would imagine that AT&T would have to continue to provide the same roaming access in Centennial's former areas. If they don't, T-Mobile may as well sell of the rest of their Louisiana network, as it will be useless in three quarters of the state. If there is anybody who has any information on this subject, please share the wealth!

Bill Radio said...

I searched the FCC files as to what may happen with GSM (and CDMA) roaming agreements when AT&T takes over Centennial. In this FCC Reply to the AT&T/Centennial application, the Commission really smacked around AT&T for trying to brush the issue under the rug, so the FCC supported all of the requests of the smaller carriers, including locking up all existing Centennial roaming agreements for 7 (that's Seven) years. And this extends to the antire AT&T network, not just those in Centennial areas.

And who knows what will happen in 7 years?

Anonymous said...

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520194679

That a response from cinn. to the fcc dated feb. 2009 , Not a decision from the fcc.