Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Future of T-Mobile Roaming

With AT&T working toward taking over Alltel markets in the rural west, our concern turns to the future of Roaming for T-Mobile. Currently, T-Mobile gains extensive roaming coverage in rural areas with an agreement will Alltel. Those GSM parts of the Alltel network that have been taken over by Verizon Wireless, will remain as they are today, no better or worse, for the next 4 years. But what happens when AT&T takes over the remaining Alltel (and Unicel) areas? Will they make life more difficult for T-Mobile and other GSM carriers?

We will assume that AT&T's acquisition of those Alltel areas with GSM service will continue to be available to GSM roamers for the same 4 years. We would also expect AT&T to expand GSM coverage beyond what Alltel offers, but will they offer that expanded roaming coverage to T-Mobile and others? And in 4 years, will AT&T say, sorry no more roaming for you.

CDMA operators (like Verizon and Sprint) normally do not play nice with GSM operators (like AT&T and T-Mobile). But when Verizon agreed to sell their Alltel spin-offs to AT&T, we know it's all about the money and not any technology alliance. AT&T allows T-Mobile roamers in some areas, but will this hold true for the future? T-Mobile may not necessarily be limited to their AT&T brethren to maintain their service levels. Spectrum leasing has changed the coverage playing field. Let's hope the sandbox stays civil, but that the cell site builders stand at the ready to add more equipment should there be a roaming call to arms.

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